Progressive annual consumption tax?

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Sean in Ottawa

People speak about specific environmental taxes like carbon taxes. I have long argued that inequity both globally and nationally is bad for the environment. It does this in two ways:

1) marginal incomes lead to an inability tomake individual decisions based on anything but economics even by people who would, if they had it, spend a little more to benefit the environment.

2) Excessive incomes lead to massive waste of resources including energy.

A tax system designed to reduce, rather than increase inequity, would have a positive benefit on the environment. A tax system that includes this as well as specific measures to target over-use of fossil fuels can go even further. The design, however, must account for the options available to the individual and in some cases improve those options.

We focus often on renovation credits for home owners who get a credit and save on fuel. Lower income renters often are the ones paying for fuel and landlords are not forced to higher standards. This is wrong. Rental standards have to be compatible with any carbon tax proposal as renters and lower income people have fewer mitigation options.

Some communities will use more of certain fuels based on what is available there - and transportation options. So taxing cars within reach of public transit is a great option as it does not punish those who do not have such access. The issue of course is also the form of the tax. If cars are taxed in a city at $500 or so per year and bus fares eliminated, then those who own cars woudl be encouraged to use transit. If you just make the car more expensive and leave fares in place, once the car is on the road there would be no incentive to minimize use. When it comes to transit we cannot merely address those willing to give up a car altogether but also get those who keep them to use them less. (This is one example of how the method of taxation and context is important.)

As I say, reducing income inequality must be central to any environmental tax strategy and shift.

Pogo Pogo's picture
  • As production moves away from labour and to more more automated/capital intensive processes the income tax system becomes more and more disfunctional.
  • Climate change requires us to take major steps. 60-80% of the impact on the planet comes from personal consumption. Is there anything more important than getting that number reduced drastically?