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Fiddling while the world burns -- the Swedish experience with the carbon tax

by Frank Arango, Seattle Workers' Voice

The average global temperature is now estimated to be one degree Celsius 
higher than pre-industrial levels, with two-thirds of the warming having 
since 1975. The primary cause is human activity releasing greenhouse gases like 
carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, with carbon 
dioxide released by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) the biggest 
culprit. And 
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been issuing 
assessment reports that have painted a nightmarish picture of what the world 
be like with more warming, and called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 
net zero by mid-century. But for all that, global carbon emissions hit record 
in 2018, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres warning in December that 
meeting a target of 1.5 degrees C warming is an "impossible" task. And he 
added, "It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we 
devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not 
enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic 
disruption." *(1)*
But despite the UN recognizing the dire situation, it continues to push the 
failing market measures that the CVO has long exposed. One of these is the cap 
and trade system *(2)*, which may reduce emissions where it's in effect, but 
nearly enough. For example, the biggest gas emitter in Europe, Germany, has 
been in the European cap and trade system since 2005. Yet it's extremely 
unlikely that it will meet its 2020 and 2030 reduction targets. *(3)* Another 
measure the Communist Voice Organization has dwelt on is the carbon tax *(4)*, 
which has been in effect in numerous countries and British Columbia for many 
years, and which is heavily pushed by everyone from the World Bank and IMF, to 
Washington Governor Inslee, to major oil and coal companies, to mainstream 
environmental groups.

Now carbon taxation is regressive, i.e., the working people and poor pay a 
percentage of their incomes than the rich do, and the polluting corporations 
pass on their tax costs by raising prices. This caused the French people to 
rise in 
the powerful "yellow vests" movement last year, which beat back President 
Macron's attempt to increase the French carbon tax. But does the carbon tax 
meet its environmental goals despite its regressive nature? For many countries 
the answer is obviously no. For example, Norway has had a carbon tax since the 
early 90s, with a current rate of $64 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions on 
energy industry, and drivers paying 53 cents extra for a gallon of gasoline. 
after 18 years emissions from road traffic were ***up*** 25.8 per cent from 
and Norway's overall gas emissions had ***grown*** by 3.4 per cent! *(5)* So 
look at Sweden, the country where the carbon tax is the highest in the world 
and where it is claimed to be a big success.

Sweden implemented its carbon tax in 1991 at a rate of $100 per ton of carbon 
dioxide emissions. That was several times higher than anything now proposed or 
in effect in North America, and the Swedish rate is now $168 per ton of carbon 
dioxide. The result is that over a period of some 28 years emissions have been 
reduced by a little more than 25 percent. Thus, to reach its goal of reaching 
it calls zero net emissions by 2045 (26 years from now) it will have to reduce 
emissions much, much more rapidly. *(7)*

Now the Swedish government talks as if everything is fine and that it will 
still meet 
its goal. Is that believable? Let's consider the following:

--Sweden's emissions reductions leveled off in 2014-15, and have now begun to 
slightly increase. *(8)*

--The United States today generates 63.5 percent of its electricity with fossil 
and the world 66 percent. Sweden, however, only generated around *three* 
percent of its electricity using fossil fuels in 1991. *(9)* Thus, it was 
relatively easy 
for Sweden to shrink this source of emissions. But it has not been easy to 
emissions from transport, which the Climate Minister says now account for a 
of Swedish emissions. *(10)* They're down only five percent in the 19 years 
since 1990. The government talks about improving infrastructure for electric 
use and expanding and improving rail networks to discourage flying, but it has 
been talking about such things for years now.

So it seems unimaginable to me that Sweden will reach its 2045 emissions goal. 
What's more, with UN officials warning that climate disaster that will occur if 
net emissions is not achieved by 2050, it's notable that with the highest 
tax in the world it will have taken Sweden 54 years to reach what it calls zero 
emissions in the unlikely event it does so. Of course Sweden can further 
the masses by raising the tax and otherwise playing with it, but it's almost 
and we don't have time for that. Besides being regressive, it's too slow.

The issue is that cap and trade and the carbon tax are 
Reaganite/Thatcherite/neo-liberal *substitutes* for needed regulation and 
planning of the economy. But the capitalists globally have been following the 
neo-liberal dogma for 40 years, and they continue to do so despite the fact 
the climate crisis is going to increasingly infringe on their profit-making. 
Thus, to 
blast them out of this path to catastrophe is going to require building a 
environmental movement that demands direct regulation and planning of the 
economy now, while capitalism still exists. Furthermore, if this regulation and 
planning is not going to be done behind closed doors and for purely capitalist 
interests, we must demand that there be openness and mass involvement in 
everything. And we should work to build a working class trend in the 
environmental movement, a trend that consistently demands that the well-being 
of the masses is central to all environmental planning, and a trend capable of 
organizing mass struggles to bring that about.



(2) See, for example, http://communistvoice.org/39cKyoto.html

8EF. In fact, while a number of European countries have both cap and trade and 
the carbon tax, they've all been failing to meet emissions targets. See, for 

(4) See, for example, http://communistvoice.org/42cCarbonTax.html

(5) See 
6-03 and 

(6) See 

(7) "Zero net emissions" by 2045 is actually a fudge number because it includes 
15 percent being covered by carbon offsets. But the history of carbon offsets 
that they can result in ruining the environment, including releasing huge 
of gasses. For example, under cap and trade offsets have been given for 
palm oil plantations. But to plant these plantations often requires destroying 
natural forests. This destroys the habitat for many species that may be rare. 
destroys the livelihoods of people who depend on the forests for their way of 
It destroys the forests as natural carbon sinks. And, what's more, it often 
results in 
huge amounts of methane being released from peat lands. The latter is why 
Indonesia is the world´s fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases


(9) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Sweden 
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3 world 

(10) See 
missions-goal <>

(From the Sept. 11, 2019 Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice list)

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