Resolution 6: Climate Change, Carbon Tax

Resolved, That the 168th Convention of the Diocese of California submits the following resolution to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:

Resolved,  the House of ________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church support a national tax on carbon-based fossil fuels based on the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would impose a carbon fee on all fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases at the point where they first enter the economy; align US emissions with the physical constraints identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to avoid irreversible climate change; and use this carbon fee through a trust fund to make equal monthly per-person dividend payments to all American households.

Explanation:  As Christians and members of a faith community, we have a responsibility to care for the earth and for the peoples of the earth. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

Previous Diocesan Resolutions have urged parishes to take measures to protect the earth, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  While local, regional, and state actions are important and necessary, they are not sufficient to solve this global problem which is accelerating ever more rapidly. The United States must take significant steps to participate fully in the international effort to preserve a livable world.

The non-partisan non-profit Citizens’ Climate Lobby offers a scientifically-based proposal with bipartisan appeal. This climate solution, known as Carbon Fee and Dividend, is a national, revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system (CF&D) that would place a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon, with all fees collected minus administrative costs returned to households as a monthly energy dividend.

In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy. 

The benefits of a fully-rebated revenue-neutral carbon tax are clear to and endorsed by leaders of faith, business associations, national security leaders, and energy and healthcare industry leaders. This market-based solution will save lives, create jobs, and boost our economy while reducing the risks associated with climate change. 

Additional information can be found here.

 

Submitted by: Contra Costa Deanery, Contact: Emily Hopkins, Delegate, St. Paul’s, Walnut Creek, EmilyHopkins4@gmail.com, 925-324-9056.

Endorsed by: the Rev. Susan Champion; the Rev. Justin Cannon; St. Paul's Walnut Creek.

Comments

In your resolution, you say, "In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy." If in 20 years this Climate Change policy only produces 2.8 million jobs, it would most likely lead to a net job loss for each of the twenty years. Further, we will be placing heating fuels, gas, and oil of the hands of the lower classes because natural price rises due to this resolution. No rebate system will keep pass with high costs in producing these vital energy supplies. In Sum, this is not a market place solution but a very socialist system.

I recommend the work of the Anglican priest and theologian, Michael Northcott, to those who wish to explore this issue more fully. His books include The Environment & Christian Ethics (1996), A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming (2007), A Political Theology of Climate Change (2013). Of particular relevance is Chapter Four of A Moral Climate, “Climate Economics.”

Northcott argues that current cap and trade policies are misguided, in that they incentivize the outsourcing of carbon emissions to developing countries and the continued expropriation of their carbon sinks, rather than reducing global carbon emissions. Thus, for example, Europe reduces its carbon emissions while importing cheap products produced in developing countries whose carbon emissions are increasing. Cap and trade commodifies carbon permits and allows wealthy investors to benefit economically from carbon production and trade in unregulated markets that are ripe for corruption.

He argues that a tax on greenhouse gas production (a “carbon” tax) would be far more efficient and effective, requiring those directly responsible for its production to bear the cost of its mitigation. Unlike corporate taxes, which tax profits, and income and payroll taxes, which tax work, it would reduce the cost of creating new carbon neutral jobs, incentivizing the move to renewable energy. At the same time, it would dramatically increase the price of the most harmful activities in terms of carbon emissions: air travel, car travel, electricity and heating consumption, corporate agriculture and long distance transportation of goods; again, incentivizing energy conservation and renewable energy.

A carbon tax also has the added benefit of not requiring the creation of new markets in carbon rations and permits, along with expensive and invasive forms of global bureaucracy and surveillance required to regulate them effectively. The main downside is that such a tax is regressive, burdening the poorest citizens disproportionately. Thus, any such tax should be accompanied by fuel subsidies for low-income households.

This is part of a much larger argument about the moral myopia of standard economic cost benefit analysis, which does not account for the cost of “externalities” such as climate change, and the misguided assumption that money is always substitutable for non-monetary goods (even life itself; or, at least, the lives of the poor in developing nations).

The bottom line is that the only way to mitigate climate change is by stopping greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax, with adjustments to address its regressive effects, moves us in the right direction.

I fully support this resolution. The Pope has spoken out for action on climate change and voiced his support for a carbon tax; it's time we Episcopalians did too. The tax puts a price on the pollution created so it's not free to dirty the air that we all breathe, nor is it ok to heat up the planet to the point where we have the extreme weather we're dealing with now and heading for worse. It will create an incentive to choose cleaner forms of energy and healthier lifestyles. Returning the fee via an equal dividend to households as CCL suggests means people who create less CO2 will benefit but those who choose to pollute will have to pay to do so. I agree with Northcott's opinion on cap and trade. The Diocese should support this resolution. It's a good complement to Sally Bingham's work with Interfaith Light and Power. It's simple, effective, and the right thing to do.

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