The International Energy Agency’s annual World Energy Outlook, released in November, sent a stark message to the participants at the climate negotiations in Durban: “The world is locking itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system. And time is running out to take action before changes become irreversible”.
While such talk of “irreversible changes” may be subject to debate, no one is questioning whether or not a lower carbon future is preferable. All things equal, clean energy sources lack the emission, national security and trade balance challenges of higher carbon alternatives.
Europe has blazed the lower carbon trail, but China and Brazil are both working to contain CO2 emissions. And last year, Australia became one of the first countries to enact a carbon tax on its largest emitters, with the proceeds being used for tax cuts and pension enhancements for the population at large.
The concept of “polluter pays” is well established in solid waste (ask any construction company about the cost of landfill access). Now it is merely being applied to gaseous pollutants.
In the United States, The Save Our Climate Act (H.R, 3242) was introduced last year to place a revenue-neutral tax on carbon at the source (with these funds then returned to each citizen in the form of a dividend.) The affect of such legislation would be to provide businesses and consumers with a predictable carbon cost on which to base decisions. Lower carbon choices become relatively less expensive to investors and consumers, and carbon dioxide levels would eventually decline from the inevitable behavioral shift.
The benefits to the USA of such legislation are potentially numerous. The American Solar Energy Association estimates that carbon legislation of this type would add 4.2 million new jobs to the US economy over ten years. Technological leadership would more easily follow from clear and transparent policies. And any reduction in the $200 billion spent annually on imported oil would improve our national security and trade deficits.
While the likelihood of such legislation being enacted in an election year is quite modest, the direction is clear: A lower carbon future awaits.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author Mr. Sadler, is President and Chief Investment Officer of Boardwalk Capital Management, an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm focused on Sustainable and Responsible Investing. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia.