EPPN Creation Care Series: Carbon Tax

EPPN Creation Care Series: Carbon Tax

July 18, 2019
By: 
High Garst

As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for the earth and all of the living things that dwell on it. Scientific research clearly shows that climate change, one of the greatest dangers to creation, is caused, in part, by carbon emissions from human industrialization. Longstanding Episcopal Church policy acknowledges the reality of climate change and urges action to address it at local, regional and state levels. While environmental action at every level is important, addressing climate change requires the United States, a leading contributor of carbon emissions, to be a part of international efforts to reduce harmful emissions and advance to cleaner energy sources.

The U.S. must take steps to lower carbon emissions and expand renewable energy, and the Church recognizes an effective way to accelerate the transition is through market forces. At the 79th General Convention, the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution to support a carbon fee and dividend model or another carbon pricing system. A carbon pricing system would increase the cost of fossil fuels to reflect their full societal costs. Various legislative and policy proposals would create various flat-rate prices that companies would pay by the ton of CO2 emissions released, with exceptions for different industries such as agriculture or the armed forces.

The Episcopal Church, recognizing the effect that an inevitably higher energy cost could have on lower-income individuals, has also resolved to advocate for appropriate measures to reduce the economic impacts on those of poor and modest income, which might include the use of a trust fund paid for with the carbon fees, distributed to the poorest people first. Some current policy proposals also include a dividend model so that the money collected from a carbon fee would be paid in dividends to American citizens and permanent residents to offset the higher cost of energy. Some proposals would phase in pricing, others would start at higher levels, while some would also include provisions that provide immunity from lawsuits over climate change to companies in an effort to win their support. Some proposals also debate the prioritization of helping the domestically vulnerable or the globally vulnerable, or to focus funding on infrastructure to prevent damage.

While there is a diversity of ideas about how a price on carbon could or should be implemented and funding allocated, the scientific community has strongly supported pricing as a method to incentivize change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of dozens of scientists and researchers from around the world, issued a study in the fall of 2018 that anticipates negative impacts of climate change to occur sooner than previously thought. The same day that the IPCC issued their report, the Noble Prize for Economics was awarded to Professor William Nordhaus for his work on calculating the economic impact of climate change and devising a way to put a price on carbon to change behavior and prevent catastrophic damage.

It is our duty to create incremental change in our energy system in order to be true stewards of creation. A carbon fee is a market-based solution that will create jobs, boost our economy, and reduce the risks associated with climate change by lowering our CO2 emissions. While there are many different proposals for a carbon fee policy, The Office of Government Relations has been charged to support legislative efforts that include a carbon fee or other means of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, recognizing the need for sound policy, but also the need for timely action in our first step towards reclaiming our call to care for God’s creation.

For the Beauty of the Earth

We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of
earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains,
and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers.
We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may
safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue
to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation,
to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.

-Book of Common Prayer, pg 840

Take Action

3 Ways to Take Action: Respond to us on Twitter, Facebook or by email to the following question:

How can we balance need for timely energy transition with the reality that such a transition would have adverse economic side effects?  

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Additional Resources

Don't miss the Creation Care homepage filled with more opportunities for individual and collective action and learning.

H.R. 763 - Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019

S. 1128 - American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act of 2019

2018 IPPC Report

William D. Nordhaus Nobel Price Page

Baker-Shulz Plan for Conservative Carbon Pricing