The carbon tax for sustainable travel

In a column titled “The world is not well”, Patrick Lagacé1 featured the duality between environmental awareness and travel, thus aggravating the rapid eco-anxiety that plagues nearly one in two Quebecers.2 However, even though I seem to need to reduce the romantic nature of our travel society, I understand the validity of this desire.

Posted at 12:00 pm

Hugo Cordeau

Hugo Cordeau
PhD student in economics at the University of Toronto

Travel is quite the quintessence of our civilization; Terminating it as a necessary condition for “being green” could have the counter-effect of reducing population support for climate action. So maybe we should look for a more … pragmatic approach.

The good news is there is a mechanism that can allow us to travel seamlessly: green hydrogen-where the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonathan Julien, has laid out a plan there, in addition to being chief project – “ECO” – of PLQ.

It may sound like science fiction, but this technology is real and accessible.

As an example, consider the October 2021 suborbital flight conducted by Blue Origin-the aerospace company owned by Jeff Bezos. In addition to the formation of star trekWilliam Shatner, the rocket is propelled by green hydrogen and therefore does not emit polluting gases, such as SpaceX kerosene, or in general, used in our planes.

Budding geniuses, don’t worry, no law of thermodynamics is broken. The mixture of oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2) is combined. This results in an electrochemical reaction that releases energy – needed to lift the rocket – and releases water vapor as “waste” (H2O).

This technology was easy to apply, but it hit two walls. The first is financial – there must be financial incentives for companies to invest to get these models; the second is political-politicians are reluctant to implement robust but necessary eco-fiscal measures. Sadly, but it will provide all the indications needed for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

More precisely, the ecofiscal mechanism we should apply is the carbon tax. Unfortunately, Quebec is not regulated in this matter, and the federal government is eliminating international flights from its carbon tax coverage…

Many believe that the usefulness of the carbon tax depends on its ability to prevent people from consuming a product. However, this is not entirely correct. The carbon tax aims to meet a need using the most effective technology possible, under the pressure of respecting the planet’s boundaries with respect to pollution.

It’s true that some would choose the train instead of the plane, but again, the tax didn’t hinder travel, it redirected the consumption of one service to another similar and less polluting.

However, there is no train connecting Montreal and Paris. It is here that the essence of the carbon tax takes on its full value.

By putting a decent price on carbon, we offer a financial incentive to aviation companies to acquire “eco-responsible” aircraft; companies with low-carbon aircraft will have a more competitive price than the competition and therefore sell more tickets.

It should be noted that this tax will be financially neutral, meaning a “basic universal income” will be funded through this tax and offered to all Canadian households, exactly like the federal carbon tax that redistributes for 80 % of households. 3 I repeat: 80% of Canadians receive more carbon credit than they pay in taxes. 4

In conclusion, although it is beneficial to reduce the consumption inherent in travel, it will remain in our lives for years to come. That said, at least the climate crisis, as well as our eco-anxiety if nothing is done. The best way to travel sustainably is to implement a stable carbon tax on aviation. In fact, though seemingly counter -intuitive, the carbon tax is seen primarily for the benefit of travelers by freeing them – in the medium term – from currently felt guilt, however unnecessary, as well as from the most -deprived. of society.– by offering them one of the most generous carbon credits.

4. Note that Quebec is not governed by a federal tax, we have a carbon exchange, and the revenue from this exchange is used to finance energy transfer.

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