Faced with the increasingly certain prospect of widespread
infrastructure failure related to climate change San Francisco is proposing an interesting new
measure—a $12 a year property tax upon property owners.
While taxation is not a new tool for battling climate change, this
proposed tax is unique in that is aimed wholly at dealing with
climate adaptation, as opposed to mitigation/ prevention.
Instead of encouraging consumers or producers to find ways of
decreasing their carbon footprint—and thereby bringing about
an overall reduction in emissions—this tax does not seek to
Carbon taxes of various stripes, for example, exist in many
jurisdictions around the world and generally tax the consumption of
emissions-producing products such as fossil fuels. The proposed San
Francisco tax, on the other hand, is designed to generate funds
that the city anticipates will be necessary to deal with some of
the catastrophic effects of climate change. Officials hope to raise
approximately $500 million over 20 years restore tidal marshes,
which would help mitigate flooding anticipated to plague the area
from rising sea levels. Rising sea levels associated with climate
change is a huge threat to the Bay Area of California. One
study estimates $62 billion
worth of critical infrastructure is at risk.
Municipalities around the world are increasingly bracing for,
and indeed already experiencing, the effects of climate change upon
major infrastructure. Extreme weather events, rising sea levels,
and other climate impacts will place tremendous strain upon
existing municipal infrastructure.
We are seeing generally a shift in the focus of climate
change-related legal and policy measures from those aimed at
reducing GHG emissions to, increasingly, those aimed at adapting to
climate impacts. The recently negotiated
Paris Agreement, for example, included several measures
designed to facilitate adaptation.
The citizens of the Bay Area will have the opportunity next
month to vote on the tax. The tax has come under criticism for the
fact that it imposes the same amount on all owners property,
whether corporations or individuals, irrespective of annual income
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