Renewables, yes, but we need carbon pricing too

Independent, 3 June 2015:

A 10 year research programme to make  green energy cheaper could be achieved tomorrow if the fossil fuel industry paid the full costs of  their  product (The heat is on, 2 June). The solution lies in the  letter to the UN from the CEO’s of six major oil and gas companies asking to cooperate on fixing a price for carbon (Energy firms ask UN for help on carbon pricing, 1 June).  Although the letter conspicuously fails to suggest the level at which carbon should be priced, this can be calculated from the  costs that are paid by society to manage the health and environmental costs of CO2 emissions, recently estimated by the IMF to be 5.3 trillion dollars annually.

8.7 billion tonnes of carbon are burnt annually which gives a  price of approximately  $600 per tonne of carbon, or $166 per tonne of CO2. If a carbon tax were set at this level it would massively increase government revenue, halve the 1.6 million deaths that occur each year as a result of air pollution, decrease carbon emissions by 20% and render subsidies for the renewable sector unnecessary.This won’t happen overnight, but Governments should start at a $200 per tonne of carbon and increase by $50 per annum until a figure of $600 is reached at which point the world’s energy problems will have been largely solved.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire