Most people who have given climate change policy any thought agree that it is important to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. They are a form of harmful waste; those producing the waste should pay for the harms. That policy consensus has been in place for quite a while. It seems the political world is beginning to catch up. The sustainability think tank Sightline has just updated its map of carbon pricing systems across the world. Things have gotten quite lively. The big recent news is China, of course.
Action in the past few years has been fast and furious. In , Portugal launched a carbon tax, and South Korea implemented a cap-and-trade program. California expanded its cap-and-trade program, initially launched in , to cover 85 percent of it GHG emissions. In addition to its carbon tax , which has been in place since , in , British Columbia put a limit and price on pollution from industrial facilities especially targeting coal-fired power plants and liquefied natural gas facilities.
The United States-shaped hole in the fight against climate change is increasingly conspicuous. In , Ontario , Canada , launched a cap-and-trade program, and Alberta, Canada , launched a new carbon tax for transportation and heating fuel emissions. But the federal requirements leave plenty of room for each province to tailor its own solution. Mexico will also launch a national carbon price in South Africa expected to launch a carbon tax in , but delayed the implementation.
That leaves the US isolated in North America not to say the world. But California is currently working to extend and expand its system to meet its ambitious new goals.
The states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative RGGI are in the midst of a program review, which could involve boosting its ambition. At least five states have bills in play that would implement some form of carbon tax or fee. Terry McAuliffe is talking about a carbon cap in Virginia. Hawaii just passed a law committing to the Paris climate targets. Some 34 states now have climate action plans. More on states rallying in a subsequent post.
The point is, while Trump and the GOP have taken the US federal government out of the carbon pricing game not that it was ever in the game , the policy is still very much alive in the US, buzzing around in states and cities, finally getting some varied real-world testing. Even grid operators and utilities are talking about it. The Paris climate agreement — which Trump intends to pull the US out of , but which countries remain committed to — contains somewhat miraculously , in Article 6 explicit provision for countries to meet their emission targets NDCs by cooperating in cross-border carbon markets, through a common cap-and-trade program or carbon tax.
Almost countries have indicated in their NDCs that they are interested in joining up with an international carbon pricing system as a way to meet their targets.
If all those countries actually take steps to price carbon — a huge if, obviously! It is early days yet, and carbon prices remain too low even in places where they exist. But if you squint just right, you can see the fuzzy outlines of a truly global response to climate change beginning to come into focus.
Call it the Axis of Unpriced Carbon. Perhaps, in the presidential election, the question of whether and how long America intends to remain in that club might finally become a salient political issue.
Updated by David Roberts drvox Jun 15, , 9: The size of the bubbles correspond to the amount of carbon covered. New systems are outlined in orange in their first year. Sightline Carbon pricing through The big recent news is China, of course. Carbon pricing in the future The Paris climate agreement — which Trump intends to pull the US out of , but which countries remain committed to — contains somewhat miraculously , in Article 6 explicit provision for countries to meet their emission targets NDCs by cooperating in cross-border carbon markets, through a common cap-and-trade program or carbon tax.