Many countries require a strong and sudden push to enforce greener, more environmentally conscious policies. We’ve seen that in Germany. In light of Japan’s nuclear disaster, breakthroughs are being made and bills are being passed that ensures Germany will be being powered by safe and sustainable energy in the future. Germany’s scientists and politicians were able to learn valuable lessons in the face of disaster, enabling them to take the next, progressive step forward.
Other countries will require different incentives in order to create progress. Starting July 1st, Australia is implementing a startling new carbon tax in hopes that a strong enough monetary push will coerce companies to start lowering their emissions. The tax, part of a larger Clean Energy Act, will force the top 300 worst carbon emitting companies to pay US$24 for every ton of greenhouse gas they produce. To get a measure of just how steep the fee is, EU countries have similar taxes ranging between 8-12 US dollars; for many companies, this tax means a fee of several million dollars.
Of course, Australia’s crippling carbon tax was not made without good reason. The island nation houses around 22.5 million people – that is only 0.003% of the global population. However, this 0.003% makes almost 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest carbon emitter per capita in the world. In short, Australia’s energy policies are in desperate need of progressive change.
However, many citizens, not just businesses, are strictly against such a strong initiative – after all, the money has to come from somewhere. With businesses needing several extra million dollars in fees, the cost of popular commodities and consumer goods will also increase in order to meet the bottom line. For regular taxpayers, this means an increase in restaurant prices, airline tickets, and gas. It also means a decrease in jobs, wages, and public services. For those skeptical when it comes to climate change, this is a needless, economic burden in an economy still recovering from a recession.
Those who simply complain about the rising prices fail to see the point of the carbon tax. The fee is not meant to take profit away from companies with high emissions – rather, it is meant to deter them from emitting too much in the first place. The law would be more effective the less it is taking from these large companies.
That being said, the tax isn’t simply meant to tighten companies’ belts. Its secondary purpose is to promote green energy research – the more a company can rely on sustainable energy sources, the less emissions it creates and the less it has to pay in taxes. The end result is very similar to Germany’s sudden push for green energy – it’s just the incentive that’s different.
Progressive change usually requires some sort of catalyst. For some, it’s waking up to a catastrophic disaster; for others, it’s waking up to an empty wallet. Regardless of the push, the most important thing is that we become aware of the dangers present in climate change, and that we become progressive in our policies and research. We might have to carry a burden now, whether it’s the dead or the jobless, but it’s one we must carry for a better tomorrow.