Dr James Hansen: Oh, Canada! Show the world the path to carbon fee and dividend

  • Published on May 12th, 2020

Oh, Canada! Friends to the south and around the world turn their lonely eyes to you. For more than a decade we have searched the world for a nation to demonstrate the one carbon pricing approach that would work: a rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, with the funds distributed uniformly, 100 percent, to the nation’s citizens.


By Dr James Hansen

From “Why Fee and Dividend Will Reduce Emissions Faster Than Other Carbon Pricing Policy Options“, my presentation to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis:

The Fee and Dividend carbon pricing policy is the single most effective way to quickly and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing the Earth to heat up, resulting in dangerous changes to the climate system. To minimize future impacts, GHG emissions must be lowered dramatically and urgently. To do so, financial incentives must be aligned with climate realities by “putting a price on carbon.” While there are many carbon pricing policies being considered, only Fee and Dividend has all the essential characteristics required for a successful policy.

With a Fee and Dividend carbon pricing policy, a rising fee is placed on the carbon content of fossil fuels and fossil fuel companies pay the fee where the fossil fuel is extracted or imported (at the well, mine, or port of entry). 100% of the money collected is distributed as a dividend to every legal resident on an equal basis, so a poor person and a wealthy person receive the same check every month. To protect American businesses and encourage foreign governments to implement carbon pricing policies, a border carbon adjustment duty is placed on imports coming from countries without their own price on carbon.

Eighty percent of the public would come out ahead, their monthly dividend more than offsetting increased prices of fuel and products made from fossil fuels. Wealthy people with big carbon footprints lose money, but they can afford it.

This money must be given to the public openly as a bank deposit, debit card deposit or cheque, not hidden in some complex calculation in annual income tax forms.

Some politicians resist this. They want the money to give to their benefactors. The fossil fuel industry fights it tooth and nail, as they understand that it is the one approach that, over time, would lead to phase in of clean energies in place of fossil fuels.

If you are Canadian (only Canadians can sign) please sign the petition:

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Canada has a national carbon pricing policy, legislating all provinces and territories to set a minimum and rising carbon fee—an important step to help Canada in its transition to clean energy;
  • In those provinces and territories where the federal backstop applies, we receive “Climate Action Incentives” through Line 45110 in our tax returns, and 80% of us come out ahead;
  • Canada’s federal backstop carbon pricing policy is similar to the carbon fee-and-dividend solution, as recommended by 27 Nobel Prize-winning economists, climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby;
  • Canada’s carbon price will increase to $50 per tonne in 2022, but that will not be enough to meet Canada’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030;
  • Modelling by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission shows that Canada must increase the price of carbon to $210 per tonne by 2030 to meet Canada’s current greenhouse gas emission target; and
  • Unless the rebates that voters receive are readily apparent as a cheque or bank deposit (rather than an income tax adjustment), an increase in carbon price to $210 per tonne or more will not be acceptable to many voters.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to steadily increase the carbon price to $210 per tonne or more by 2030, and to distribute the carbon pricing revenue to Canadians as cheques or bank deposits.

Click here to sign


About the Author

Dr. James Hansen directs the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The Guardian calls him "The Father of Climate Science" - his 1988 Congressional testimony on climate change helped raise broad awareness of global warming. He is often in the news advocating for a price on carbon and other forms of climate action, divesting from fossil fuels, and helping his grandchildren sue the government over their future. He is the author of "Storms of my Grandchildren".