University of Ottawa Law Professor, Nathalie Chalifour, gave a
compelling presentation on the merits --and
cautions --of carbon tax at the University of Calgary on October
16, 2012. Professor Chalifour focuses on the interdisciplinary
relationships between law, economy, environment, and social
justice. The well-attended presentation was entitled "Carbon
Taxes to Address Climate Change - Are they Effective? Are they
Fair?", and focused largely on British Columbia's
experiences with carbon taxes, touching briefly on experiences in
Québec and Europe.
Professor Chalifour noted the success or effectiveness of
BC's carbon tax (see Sustainable Prosperity's 2012 report
here), while recognizing some shortcomings in
fairness leading from carbon tax revenues.
Prof. Chalifour explained how many taxes, including carbon
taxes, are regressive, in that the burden of those taxes is
distributed unevenly, frequently exacerbating the problems faced by
society's most vulnerable. Low-income individuals and families
spend a higher percentage of their disposable incomes on energy
costs, and yet often have reduced flexibility to reduce their
energy consumption. In this respect, Prof. Chalifour commended the
refundable Low Income Climate Action Tax that helped offset the
regressive nature of the carbon tax in its first year, but noted
the need for this Action Tax to be indexed with the carbon tax, in
order to maintain the positive effects of the first year. According
to her calculations, it would take 13% of the total carbon tax
revenues to fund the Action Tax at an indexed level.
Professor Chalifour is optimistic that carbon taxes will be
introduced in other Canadian provinces in the future, and hopes key
players will consider the social justice implications of their
policies. Some of her suggestions? --Enable meaningful
participation of all communities in the decision making; devote a
portion of revenues to climate change policies (eg.
Québec's Green Fund); and calculate a "social
dividend" and draft policies that recognize the value in
social welfare benefits.
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