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Why we support – POLICY BRIEF

In July 2019, a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) on carbon pricing was deemed admissible by the European Commission and opened to the collection of signatures1. To enable the discussion of the ECI in the European Parliament, one million signatures in seven European Countries will have to be collected by July 2020. Aim of the ECI is introducing a common carbon pricing policy which could complement the established Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) by associating a price to CO2 emissions in the European Union. The initial price per ton-equivalent should be 50 euro and increase up to 100 euro in 2025. The proposal includes the introduction of a border carbon adjustment for any goods imported in the EU. The revenue from the taxation shall be used for contrasting the adverse distributional effects of the measure, particularly for supporting low-income Europeans during the transition toward a market dominated by goods and services with progressively lower carbon footprints and, arguably, higher prices. 

The introduction of measures that could discourage the use of fossil fuels and promoting transition toward a low-carbon economy has been discussed in policy and environmental economics literature for the past three decades2. The scholarly community at large supports the introduction of integrated interventions that could minimize CO2 emissions and decreasing the vulnerability of the living environment to the consequences of global warming. Prominent economists, but also climate ethicists3 have endorsed the scientific evidence on the contribution of anthropogenic activities to climatic changes and supported the introduction of carbon pricing measures explicitly4.

Nevertheless, the political resistance to the introduction of such policy measures is still widespread (e.g. Bowen, 2011; Baranzini et al., 2017)5. One classic argument of resistance is the residual uncertainty that surrounds the anthropogenic causes of climate change. One other argument regards the complex ex ante estimation of the benefits achievable in the future by means of current interventions, among which the policy and market interventions discussed here. 

At Science for Democracy, we consider such arguments insufficiently robust for justifying what ethicist Philip Gardiner rightfully describes as the “head-in-the-sand approach” (2004) of several politicians and regulators. Moreover, in the light of the polluter-pays principle and the precautionary principle, both embedded in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, we welcome the current ECI on carbon pricing as a bottom-up initiative coherent with the normative principles that should inspire future European regulation 

1 The complete text of the ECI is available online at​. Last visited: May 8, 2020
2 A comprehensive overview of studies and secondary resources on carbon pricing is made accessible by the Carbon Pricing Coalition (CPC), Online, at​. Last visited: May 8, 2020
3 Gardiner SM (2004) Ethics and global climate change. Ethics 114 (3), 555-600
4 See among others the Economists Statement on Carbon Dividends, online, at:​. Last visited: May 8, 2020
5 Bowen A (2011) The case for carbon pricing. Policy Brief, Grantham Research Institute in Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Sciences, online, at:​. Last visited: May 8, 2020
Baranzini et al. (2017) Carbon pricing in climate policy: seven reasons, complementary instruments, and political economy considerations. WIREs Climate Change 8(4), online, at: Last visited: May 8, 2020