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Huber Talks to Real Change News About Carbon Pricing Programs

March 20, 2023

Real Change News

Matt Huber

Matthew T. Huber

Washington state's first auction of carbon allowances, which took place Feb. 28, set the cost of a metric ton of carbon at $48.50. Having a carbon allowance means being allowed to emit one metric ton of carbon in 2023. The auction was prompted by 2021’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA), a bill that set progressive limits on carbon emissions for prolific polluters with the aim of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to 95 percent below 1990 levels.

The fact that the costs of compliance are typically borne by workers and consumers is a fundamental flaw of carbon pricing programs, says Matthew Huber, professor of geography and the environment and author of “Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet” (Verso Books, 2022). It’s one that, he suggests, has led to the Biden administration’s relatively skeptical stance on cap-and-trade programs.

“One of the main reasons why the Biden administration has been so turned off by this approach is they’ve seen what happened in France with the yellow vests,” he says, referencing the countrywide protests that began in 2018 and were led by motorists fed up with higher fuel prices. In France, all drivers are required to carry yellow safety vests, thus the name “gilets jaunes” for the loose collective behind the protests.

“It took [the Biden administration] long enough, but they figured out finally that any kind of climate mitigation policy that can be perceived as raising the cost of energy for working class people, for ordinary people, is going to be easily mobilized against not only by workers and poor people, but actually by the right,” Huber adds.

Read more in the Real Change News article, “Washington holds first carbon auction, determining price of $48.50 per ton.”

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