iran pollution carbon tax ireland greenhouse gases

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Greener Yet Elsewhere ...
green party pigou resource curse citizens dividend

Iran Pollution Worsens as Thousands Die

Air can be foul enough to be fatal yet be cleared up by wise policy. We excerpt three 2012-13 articles from: (1) BBC, Jan 7, on Iran by M. Asgari; (2) New York Times, on Ireland, Dec 27, by E. Rosenthal; (3) NYT again, Jan 5, on Pigou by R. Frank; and (4) a video link from 2011 Nov 20, TEDxBerlin on sharing rent by J. West.

by Mohsen Asgari, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, by Robert H. Frank, and by Johnny West

Iran's deputy health minister said some 4,460 people died from air pollution in Tehran in the first nine months of last year.

At the peak of the crisis, the corridors of local clinics were full of wheezing people, children and pregnant women waiting for oxygen and treatment.

The BBC's office in Tehran, located in the highlands in the northern part of the city, often offers a clear view of the sprawling city of Tehran. But these days, I see only the blurred outlines of high-rise buildings and the murky Milad communications tower in the distance.

Walking in the streets of Tehran is impossible without wearing a surgical mask over one's mouth and nose, but people's eyes still tear up and their throats sting from the mist of pollutants, which are made up of particles containing lead, sulphur dioxins, and benzene.

Shielded from cleansing winds by the Alborz mountain range that embraces the capital like a crescent moon, flooded with cars and surrounded by cement factories and power stations, Tehran has long been notorious for pollution -- particularly during dry winters of still air, such as this one.

To read more

JJS: From the problem to the solution.

Over the last three years, with its economy in tatters, Ireland embraced a novel strategy to help reduce its staggering deficit: charging households and businesses for the environmental damage they cause.

The government imposed taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, a move that immediately drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene. Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

The Irish now pay purchase taxes on new cars and yearly registration fees that rise steeply in proportion to the vehicle’s emissions.

Environmentally and economically, the new taxes have delivered results. Long one of Europe’s highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008.

Although much of that decline can be attributed to a recession, changes in behavior also played a major role; the country’s emissions dropped 6.7 percent in 2011 even as the economy grew slightly.

When the Irish were faced with new environmental taxes, they quickly shifted to greener fuels and cars and began recycling with fervor. Automakers like Mercedes found ways to make powerful cars with an emissions rating as low as tinier Nissans. With less trash, landfills closed. And as fossil fuels became more costly, renewable energy sources became more competitive, allowing Ireland’s wind power industry to thrive.

Revenue from environmental taxes has played a crucial role in helping Ireland reduce a daunting deficit by several billion euros each year.

Although first proposed by the Green Party, the environmental taxes enjoy the support of all major political parties.

Yet the coalition government that enacted the taxes was voted out of office last year.

The prices of basic commodities like gasoline and heating oil have risen 5 to 10 percent. The government has provided subsidies for low-income families to better insulate homes.

Some of Europe’s strongest economies, like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, have taxed carbon dioxide emissions since the early 1990s, and Japan and Australia have introduced them more recently.

A modest carbon tax in the United States that increased incrementally over time could generate about $1.25 trillion in revenue from 2012 to 2022, reducing the 10-year deficit by 50 percent.

To read more

JJS: From one particular pollution tax to that kind of taxation in general.

Taxes on activities with harmful side effects are favored even by conservative economists. These levies are known as Pigovian taxes, after the British economist Arthur C. Pigou.

Taxing vehicles by weight would provide another incentive to take external costs into account. Those who don’t really need heavier vehicles could buy lighter ones and pay less tax. Others could pay the tax as fair compensation for their heavier vehicles’ negative side effects.

We could tax drivers contributing to traffic congestion, for example, on the grounds that entering a crowded roadway causes delays to others. We could tax noise, carbon emissions, and other specific forms of air and water pollution.

Although some people would end up as losers under any single one of these measures, virtually everyone would come out ahead under a broad suite of Pigovian taxes.

It’s an iron law of politics that prospective losers lobby harder to block change than prospective winners do for its adoption. That asymmetry creates a powerful status-quo bias that makes even broadly beneficial policy changes hard to achieve.

To read more

JJS: From the taxing of putting bads into the environment to the taxing of taking goods out of the environment.

Why can’t Nigeria be like Norway? With 20 years experience in and around the oil industry journalist and consultant Johnny West claims a simple policy tool, that can switch the situation of countries in which natural resources are produced and which, as a consequence, suffer from conflicts, war and corruption.

To read more

JJS: And you don’t have to stop at sharing just the rents paid for resources. You could also share the rents paid for surface land, for the airwaves, and the “rents” paid for quite valuable privileges like corporate charters. By doing that while getting rid of the counterproductive taxes on our efforts and the addictive subsides beneath our waste, you would make your economy both as fair and as efficient as possible -- and you’d be practicing geonomics at its fullest.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Improvement Is Possible Everywhere

Nobelist Stiglitz Calls for George's Tax

Forbes Wants the Tax that Does Not Distort

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