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Canadians Propose 'Elegant Solution' for Country's Runaway Emissions

Under a fee-and-dividend plan, the government would gradually increase taxes on fossil fuels to make renewable energy more competitive

"Carbon fee-and-dividend would put a price on carbon but at the same time help protect ordinary people from the costs of transitioning to alternative energy sources." (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)

The Canadian chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL Canada) on Monday launched a petition calling for the government to implement a carbon tax known as the fee-and-dividend, a measure environmental advocates say would help the country meet its climate promises without burdening citizens with the costs.

Under a fee-and-dividend plan, the government would gradually increase taxation on fossil fuels at their entry point into the marketplace, which would help make alternative and renewable energy more economically competitive, spurring investment and innovation in the field, the lobby says.

And the money collected from the fees would be redistributed among citizens to help offset the costs of transitioning to clean energy.

"It really is an elegant solution," said Cathy Orlando, national manager of CCL Canada. "Carbon fee-and-dividend would put a price on carbon but at the same time help protect ordinary people from the costs of transitioning to alternative energy sources. It would be easy to understand, transparent, according to many climate scientists and economists, it would work."

That includes Dr. James Hansen, climate scientist and professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute—and one of the earliest alarm-ringers on climate change in the 1980s—who wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post on Monday:

Such an approach would give all citizens and business people visible incentives to reduce fossil fuel use, spurring the economy, modernizing energy infrastructure, and phasing out fossil fuels faster than big-bank-driven “schemes” such as cap-and-trade.

[....] A carbon fee, should it be agreed upon by say China and the U.S., could be made near-global via border duties on products from countries without a carbon fee.

Hansen said that the scheme would help developing nations grappling with the economic burden of climate change.

"A slowly rising revenue-neutral carbon fee is the approach that would help nations such as India move as rapidly as practical to clean energies, which they desperately need," he wrote. "Obligations for technical and financial assistance from the developed countries are already well recognized."

Referring to the raging wildfires in Alberta, Hansen concluded, "as fires engulf the tar sands, there is an encouraging rumble to the north...Canada just might provide the spark that begins to move the world toward a solution."

The petition comes just as the Globe and Mail reported that Ontario's government plans to spend $7 billion on a sweeping climate change plan.

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