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Republican ex-top diplomats propose a carbon tax
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2017

Several senior Republican statesmen, including former secretaries of state and the treasury department, proposed Wednesday a carbon tax as a way of fighting the threat posed by climate change.

Their proposal aims to scrap former president Barack Obama's environmental regulations in favor of taxes on polluting emissions that could be returned to everyday Americans as cash.

"Mounting evidence of climate change is growing too strong to ignore," said the proposal, called "The Conservative Case for Climate Dividends" and issued by the Climate Leadership Council.

The group includes former secretary of state James Baker who served under George H.W. Bush; Henry Paulson who was treasury secretary under George W. Bush, and George Schulz, who was secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

"While the extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned, the risks associated with future warming are too big and should be hedged. At least we need an insurance policy."

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that human activity -- primarily the burning of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal -- is sending more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warming the planet.

The notion of somehow taxing carbon emissions in order to make polluting a less favorable business venture, has been promoted mainly by left-leaning environmental groups in the past.

But the proposal by the former Republican leaders urged conservatives to consider the idea anew, now that Donald Trump is US president and Republicans hold a majority in both houses of Congress.

Trump has called for a rollback of environmental regulations established under Obama, describing them as "job-killers," and has nominated a leading critic of such measures to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new proposal -- which Baker planned to discuss with Vice President Mike Pence, and Gary Cohn director of the National Economic Council at the White House on Wednesday -- would establish a "gradually increasing tax on carbon dioxide emissions," starting at $40 per ton.

"This tax would send a powerful signal to businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon footprints," said the group's proposal.

"The proceeds would be returned to the American people on an equal basis via quarterly dividend checks," it added, amounting to some $2,000 the first year for a family of four.

The plan would also impose fees on imports from countries without comparable carbon pricing, to "protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations, encouraging them to adopt their own carbon pricing."

Finally, the plan would eliminate "regulations made unnecessary by the carbon tax... including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan."

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