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The successes and failures of carbon taxes

July 28, 2021
Elena Sierra
Class of 2024

At the beginning of this experience, I was really looking forward to analyzing the successes and failures of carbon tax implementations to use as a guide for carbon tax policy in the United States. My research advisor, David Fedor, and I are working on telling a story of the effects of these carbon taxes, focusing on the social and political impact and the impact on emissions.

Over these first few weeks of research, I have been getting a general idea of how British Columbia, the United Kingdom, and France have implemented carbon taxes, and then I dove into France’s implementation and data on energy and carbon emissions from each nation. It has been really interesting to connect the social responses, policy changes, and carbon dioxide emissions. In France, an interesting aspect of the tax is that most industries were exempt, causing motorists to have the greatest issue adjusting to the tax. Since these motorists were regular people who were not able to affordably or accessibly change their behavior, there is not much of a decrease in road emissions in France after the tax was implemented and the government had to suspend the increase of the price of carbon in 2018 because it was negatively impacting lower-income citizens and caused the Yellow Vest Movement.

This research has expanded my interests in energy beyond renewable technologies and has made me more interested in changing people’s behavior to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. Doing a 10 week case study is daunting, but I am excited to learn more and dive into other nations’ carbon tax implementations.

Below are some tables from the data I’ve been analyzing. Figure 1 has the planned carbon tax prices; Figure 2 has the actual carbon tax prices; Figure 3 has the total CO2 emissions; Figure 4 has CO2 emissions from the road.

(Figure 1) Planned Carbon Tax Evolution in France (€/tCO2)
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
14.5 22 30.5 44.6 55 65.4 75.8 86.2

 

(Figure 2) Actual Carbon Tax Evolution in France (€/tCO2)
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
14.5 22 30.5 44.6 44.6 44.6 44.6

 

(Figure 3) Total CO2 emissions in France (million tons of CO2)
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
328.8 329.3 297.6 303.9 306.1 309.9 303.5

 

(Figure 4) Road CO2 emissions in France (million tons of CO2)
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
120.6 119.7 120.1 121.2 121.3 121.3 118.2