Carbon emissions from corporations and governments are considered to be responsible for widening the harm being done to our environment. Are these entities doing enough to be greener?
Singapore plans to adopt carbon tax from 2019 to cut emissions. Canada is adopting carbon taxing starting this month. South Africa is also poised to begin a long-awaited carbon tax from June. Germany’s environment minister just announced its intention to discuss the levying of a carbon tax as part of its national plan to curb climate change.
Carbon taxing seems to be really catching on as disasters caused by pollution induced climate change loom in the near future. However, carbon taxing only works if everyone is onboard.
Jodie Roussell, Senior Advisor at PV Cycle told The Sociable that there is still more to be desired on the part of governments and corporations and that carbon taxing might not be the absolute answer we are looking for.
“As we speak today, I am looking out the window in Switzerland, at the snow falling on the blossoming apple trees outside. This is where the global phenomenon of climate change creates real local destabilization”
The Sociable spoke to Roussell ahead of the Horasis Global Meeting that took place in Cascais, Portugal, from April 6-9, where she was a participant.
“Most corporates and governments aren’t doing enough. It is clear that the move to limit global temperature increases to well below 2°C on average.
“This is a significant change from business-as-usual, but it is absolutely necessary; 195 Countries agreed on this in the Paris Agreement,” she says.
Apart from serving as Senior Advisor to PV Cycle, Roussell has served as Chief Executive of the Global Solar Council, Trina Solar’s Head of Public Affairs, Europe and Africa and Latin America, and as Vice-President of the Board, Solar Power Europe, among other titles.
Will Carbon Taxing Work?
According to Roussell, using a tax to disincentivize the economic harm of carbon emissions makes sense. However, she says, despite the principal being sound, in a global economy, the unequal application of a tax can result in regulatory arbitrage.
She explains with an example:
“A heavily polluting industry from Country A, where a carbon tax is put in place, would be financially incentivized to move to Country B, a country without a carbon tax, and continue polluting there. Competitors in Country A would be obliged to adopt new technologies and to limit emissions, potentially incurring higher costs. Firms operating in Country B, would have lower costs but higher emissions that those in Country A, resulting in lower cost operations.”
“Corporates and citizens both need to demand a better regulatory framework, so that the rules of the economy incentivize carbon neutral operations”
The thoughtful implementation of any tax is key to its success. Carbon taxes can be effective if they are applied in the same way across major economies.
Are Corporations Doing Something?
Climate change warnings made by authoratative sources like the UN have the world thinking about the consequences of carbon emissions. So what are we doing about it?
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“Corporates and citizens both need to demand a better regulatory framework, so that the rules of the economy incentivize carbon neutral operations. This is one of the many challenges we looked forward to discussing at the Horasis Global Meeting in Cascais this year,” Roussell says.
The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University’s carbon ‘Stabilization Wedges’ is a framework to approach carbon mitigation.
The framework looks at the 15 dimensions of carbon reduction strategies using existing technologies to rapidly help governments and businesses break down the challenge of emission reduction. The wedges include energy efficiency, switching to lower emissions fuels, wind power, solar power, biofuels, and natural carbon sinks through agriculture best practices.
Roussell says a good example of corporates taking individual responsibility to work sustainably is the RE100 Group, which is made up of around 169 companies. The group includes companies like Adobe, IKEA, BMW, Coca-Cola, and eBay.
“These companies are large leading corporates committing to use 100% renewable energy, and in some cases also go carbon neutral, while maintaining market competitiveness against their competitors. In the long term, these early movers will be the winners,” she predicts.
An Appeal for Smart Measures
According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s speech at the State of the Global Climate report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.
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This can be seen when dramatic cases of droughts, floods, and mega-storms we have seen over the past years disrupt the normal pollination of crops and agricultural business.
About 90 % of agricultural production losses in sub-Saharan Africa where the sector on average contributes to a quarter of its GDP, rising to a half when agribusiness is included, were caused by droughts.
A conservative estimate of the numbers in total crop and livestock production losses after major droughts were over $30 billion between 1991 and 2013 in the region.
“Only by acting in the next years with a smart mix of significant mitigation and adaption measures can we limit the damage”
Floods and storms have affected many vulnerable Asian countries. For example, the 2010 floods in Pakistan caused crop production losses directly impacting cotton ginning, rice processing and flour and sugar milling, while cotton and rice imports surged. Around 50 % of the US$10 billion in total damages and losses encumbered the agriculture sector.
Roussell appeals for implementation of smart measures.
“As we speak today, I am looking out the window in Switzerland, at the snow falling on the blossoming apple trees outside. This is where the global phenomenon of climate change creates real local destabilization, when our food supply stability is put at risk. Only by acting in the next years with a smart mix of significant mitigation and adaption measures can we limit the damage,” she says.