Republican group proposes carbon tax as ‘conservative solution’ to climate change

Multiple coal power plant smokestacks emit pollution.
Studies have shown that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other facilities that burn fossil fuels contribute to climate change. Photo: Jeff Zehnder/

A Mott-supported group of Republican elder statesmen is calling for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a market-based plan to confront climate change.

The Climate Leadership Council — which is led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and includes former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. — released a carbon dividends plan at a Feb. 8 press conference in Washington, D.C. The plan calls for taxing carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, a primary cause of climate change, and allowing market forces to replace some existing air pollution regulations.

The tax would provide an economic incentive for companies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and the resulting dividends from the tax would be returned to consumers. The Council estimates that an initial tax of $40 per ton on carbon dioxide emissions would generate up to $300 billion per year in revenue and give a family of four a $2,000 dividend.

Baker told the New York Times that the plan is based on classic conservative principles of free market solutions and small government. It received widespread media coverage, including articles by the New York Times and CNN.

Climate change remains a divisive political issue in Washington, but major oil companies — including Exxon Mobil — have indicated support for the concept of a carbon tax, according to the Times article.

The Mott Foundation provided a $100,000 grant to help the Climate Leadership Council get started.

“One of the important roles of philanthropy is supporting credible organizations that pursue innovative solutions to complex issues,” said Ridgway White, Foundation president. “Mott’s grant helps the Council explore a promising approach to an issue of global importance.”