Time to put a price on pollution

Mention the concept of a new tax to politicians and most will run screaming out of the room to go vacuum their cars or mow their lawns – anything to avoid talking about an issue that they think could lose votes, no matter how sensible or reasonable the concept may be.

But that’s going to have to change soon because we need to have a serious and open discussion about initiating a mechanism for pricing pollution – specifically carbon…

There are many ways to do this, but most experts agree that market-based solutions can play a critical role. Two such solutions are a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax. Under a cap-and-trade system, governments put a limit on the amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere. Industries have to stay within their limits. Innovators who go below their limits can sell their leftover emissions as credits to those who go over the set amount.

Under a carbon tax, the more you pollute, the more you pay. Such a tax could be applied to all products or activities that have a substantial carbon footprint – producing and burning gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels, for example. This would encourage industries to become more efficient and reduce costs, while encouraging consumers to save money by being more environmentally friendly.

Global warming has really changed the environmental discussion in Canada, and much of the world. Suddenly, people are much more aware of our environmental challenges and eager to get moving on sustainable alternatives. Government plays a key role in this movement, and if our federal government isn’t already seriously looking into a carbon-pricing mechanism, it should be.

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