Carbon Tax Could Be Next Goal for California’s Disadvantaged Communities

California’s current greenhouse gas trading program has been hailed by many people as a revolutionary model, but there are also critics who believe the program isn’t aggressive enough. These critics believe the program still allows big industries to continue producing harmful pollutants in California neighborhoods unchecked.

“A tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted, combined with emissions caps, would be a simpler and more equitable way to price carbon,” Brent Newell, general counsel at the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, told Bloomberg BNA.

Despite these arguments, state leaders will likely favor the current carbon trading program to a new carbon tax. Governor Jerry Brown’s goal is to re-authorize the trade program through 2030. In addition, the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) upcoming vote for its 2030 Climate Change Scoping Plan could make the current trade program a key element in the plan.

Mary D. Nichols, CARB’s chairperson, believes that the current trade program is the most cost effective way for the organization and state to achieve their goals.

“It is working and has inspired climate action beyond California,” Nichols said at a recent conference on the state’s policies.

While activists and state leaders debate the best way to address climate change, one California business owner has already self-imposed a carbon tax in order to create a more environmentally-conscious business model.

There are approximately 28 million small businesses in the U.S., including Luke Husky’s Greener Environments. Located in San Luis Obispo, Greener Environments focuses primarily on green landscaping services.

Even when water is in short supply, landscaping services are in demand in California, a state famous for its climate and outdoor spaces. The typical homeowner spends six hours or more per week in their backyard, and landscaping upgrades can increase a home’s resale value by as much as 14%.

Husky explained that finding fuel-efficient vehicles and equipment to perform his job is difficult, so he wanted to find another way to help the environment.

And that’s how his self-imposed carbon tax was born. Now, Husky and his wife Melody, who co-owns the company, have calculated a monthly carbon tax for their emissions. The business owners tax themselves at a rate of $25 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted on a month-by-month basis.

“This rate will increase every year until we can reduce our carbon emissions to the relevant equivalent of 10 percent of our 2016 carbon emissions,” Husky told Lawn and Landscape.

Not only does the company donate the funds to local environmental organizations, but Husky said the company will not be raising prices to offset the tax. Greener Environments may only be a small business, but their example in sustainability and accountability may be one that activists for a statewide carbon tax look to in the future.

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