USA has been Protecting Climate Polluters for 30 Years; Sheltering Families on $400,000 Insults the Emerging World (3)

-Will U.S. lawmakers punt their key decision on carbon pricing until after the Glasgow climate talks? Disappointing, if so. Where is the leadership? We should know more by the end of today

Opinion by Mathew Carr

Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2021 — (LONDON): OPEN LETTER TO U.S. LAWMAKERS

That the Biden-Harris administration and U.S. lawmakers apparently feel the need to shield families earning $400,000 per annum from carbon pricing is truly astonishing and troubling.

It reminds me of a Jean-Claude Juncker comment from 2007:

“We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it”: Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and President of the Eurogroup. The Economist (2007), “The Quest for Prosperity”, March 15th. He served as president, European Commission from 2014 to 2019. See note 1.

Juncker was talking about structural reform of the EU — yet this comment rings more acutely when applied to the global climate crisis. Or, even more specifically, to carbon pricing.

The U.S. helped set up the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in circa 1990, yet it’s paid lip service to that commitment ever since. It largely does not price carbon in any way. Polluters pollute for free.

The biggest economy’s emissions from energy have surged from 5 billion tons of CO2 in 1990 to 5.9 billion in 2007. Even after the worst global pandemic in modern times, they were 4.6 billion tons last year, little changed from 1990, according to data from BP Plc. And they are rebounding strongly this year.

So, 4% of the world’s population caused 14% of the world’s energy-related emissions last year. Meanwhile, looking back a century or so, the US was responsible for about a quarter of the global climate crisis — it’s put about that portion of heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere.

U.S. lawmakers need to keep this front and centre of mind as they consider their votes Thursday and Friday on the Biden-Harris reform proposals for the US economy and its lovely, generous people.

It seems lawmakers fudged it, as of Thursday night, at least, delaying their decision while doing a deal to prevent a government shutdown? There are more talks scheduled Friday. Have they /will they kicked the can down the road to after the planned end of the Glasgow climate talks in the middle of November?

On Friday, a deal appeared in the offing, the NYT said, citing key Senator Joe Manchin, other lawmakers and pundits. See this snip:

NYT snip: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/01/briefing/infrastructure-bill-democrats-divided.html

See this too:

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier this month confirmed the Senate majority leader had asked him to craft legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions, but ensure the policy would respect Mr. Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on families earning less than $400,000, the NY Times reported. See note 3.

“Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000. That was dumb, because people earning less than $400,000 comprise no less than 98.2 percent of the U.S. population, among them many people one may describe very accurately as rich,” said the New Republic. See note 2.

Dumb is not my word. But let’s consider that the global average income is about $10,000.

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/median-income-by-country

I also like these sections of the New Republic story (see note 2) — but certainly don’t agree with everything in the article (the stuff on energy markets seems a bit misguided):

In this instance, the supremely exasperating Senator Kyrsten Sinema [Democratic senator) just might stumble into legislating a tax to curb carbon emissions. The United States would address the climate crisis in a very serious way for the very first time…

To judge from this (Arizona Republic) interview, a carbon tax should be extremely, well, Sinematic. But Sinema is on record condemning the carbon tax as “detrimental to the United States economy,” and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic caucus’s other problem child, is even less likely to support one because he represents a coal state. Manchin’s already griping about other climate items included in the reconciliation bill, including a ‘clean electricity standard’ to move utilities toward renewable energy sources.”

I’m using this reporting, and the opining, to set up my key points.

I want each U.S. lawmaker to imagine reading about this series of events and the global context as if they are a parent in a Bangladeshi farming family earning $2,000 a year. Your crops have just been ruined for the fifth year in a row and the family’s youngest son has just died of some weird disease stoked by global warming. I know, I’m asking a lot.

Climate activist poster, East London. CarrZee

It’s deeply unfair to protect families earning $400,000 in Arizona when it’s families earning $2,000 being impacted most by those rich families doing the damage (while pretending to care or living in ignorance).

Sure, my quick analysis ignores a bunch of real politics. That’s your job, lawmakers, to deal with with it. Especially since you’ve let the American public discourse become so wrongheaded on who’s to blame for climate change and what to do about it. That is the fault of the media and U.S. politicians and many others. If you feel a little guilty about this, resign. Especially if you are male, pale and stale. Give someone else a go.

U.S. families earning more than $10,000 – $50,000 (I’m not passionate about the exact number) need to face at least a little impact from carbon pricing so they change their behavior in the markets for goods and services that serve them. Sure, give them a rebate if absolutely needed because of poverty or other good reasons.

But, do ensure that carbon pricing gets into the markets now. Don’t keep protecting people who are behaving badly / in ignorance.

Should you fail to do this today, lawmakers, you will go down in history as a key part of a system that’s extending a global miscarriage of justice.

I’m from Australia. I am familiar with this type of disconnect. We down under are even worse on a per-capita basis in terms of environmental damage and further along the line on the crap-lawmaker index.

Shielding rich people in wealthy nations from the impact of carbon prices will most certainly anger citizens in the global south. That’s not a great starting block for the Glasgow climate talks.

The Paris climate rulebook being negotiated over the next few weeks may end up failing to encourage the global collaboration that’s clearly needed — just because we are still not addressing the key fairness problems that got us here in the first place.

The electorate HAS changed. You will mostly get re-elected this time if you do the right thing and tweak markets to favor climate protection and climate justice.

(Having lots of technical problems this afternoon/evening Thursday, Friday; Adds Tweets; Comment or set me straight at mathew@carrzee.net, or publicly humiliate me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

Nero (blue) burned Rome down to get credit for rebuilding it, killed his mum and his first wife. Galba (white) replaced him after Nero committed suicide after learning he was to be put to death as a public enemy. British Museum.

NOTES

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/pages/publication12586_en.pdf
  2. https://newrepublic.com/article/163800/kyrsten-sinema-carbon-tax-budget
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/us/politics/carbon-tax-democrats.html

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