Christopher E. Riddle: Carbon offsets and fees 

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Thursday, November 24, 2022

In his Nov. 16 column “Widespread Carbon Offsets Essential for Reaching Climate Goals,” Joe Silverman suggests that we drop the long-pursued idea of a carbon fee charged to producers and importers of fossil fuels, and substitute ‘carbon offsets’ purchased by U.S. households and businesses based on their respective carbon footprints. The funds generated would go to the UN Climate Fund, which would be used around the globe to fund measures like conservation, renewable energy and forest restoration in poor countries. I am assuming Mr. Silverman is proposing that all U.S. citizens and businesses be required to participate in this carbon offset purchase program. If it’s voluntary, I don’t see how it could generate the level of funding necessary to have any measurable impact. Requiring purchase by households and businesses of carbon offsets in proportion to their carbon footprint would encourage conservation in the U.S., since families and businesses would see that reducing their footprint would save money by reducing their required carbon offset purchases. However, if it’s required, it will be highly complex and costly to administer, even if it were politically viable. The organization of which Mr. Silverman is a member, the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, has been working in Washington for years to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend bill. That’s still the right answer. It justly requires fossil fuel energy companies to pay an escalating carbon fee that reflects the costs to the world from widespread use of their products. Over time, it will increase the cost of fossil fuels, and thereby incentivize conservation. It’s simple to administer, dealing with a small number of energy companies rather than hundreds of millions of taxpayers. And it will produce a new revenue stream, which can be returned to the citizens, or also shared with the UN Climate Fund.

Christopher E. Riddle