Fee and dividend

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A coal power plant in Germany. Fee and dividend will make fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – less competitive as a fuel than other options.

Fee and Dividend or Carbon Fee and Dividend (CF&D) is a market-based mechanism for reducing the carbon emissions that help to drive anthropogenic climate change. Carbon Fee and Dividend begins with levying imposing a progressively-rising fee on carbon-based fuels, then returning some or all of the fees collected to the public as a regular energy dividend. This is intended to incentivize a shift to low-carbon energy while protecting consumers from any increases in the costs of carbon-based fuels.

Designed to maintain or improve economic vitality while speeding the transition to a sustainable energy economy, Carbon Fee and Dividend has been proposed as an alternative to emission reduction mechanisms such as cap and trade or a straightforward carbon tax.


The basic structure of Carbon Fee and Dividend is as follows:[1]

  1. A fee is levied on fuels at their point of origin into the economy, such as the well, mine, or port of entry. The fee is based upon the carbon content of a given fuel, with a commonly-proposed starting point being $10–$16 per ton of carbon that would be emitted once the fuel is burned.[2][3]
  2. The fee is progressively increased, providing a steady, predictable price signal and incentivizing early transition to low-carbon energy sources and products.
  3. A border tax adjustment is levied on imports from nations that lack their own equivalent fee on carbon. To take one example, if the United States created a carbon fee-and-dividend system, China would face the choice of paying carbon fees to the United States or creating its own internal carbon pricing system. This would leverage American economic power to incentivize carbon pricing around the world.
  4. Some or all of the fee is returned to households as an energy dividend. Returning 100% of net fees results in a revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system; this revenue neutrality often appeals to conservatives, such as former Secretary of State George Shultz,[4] who want to reduce emissions without increasing the size and funding of the federal government.

In order to maximize effectiveness, the amount of the fee would be regulated based on the scientific assessments from both economic and climate science in order to balance the size and speed of fee progression.


A 2014 economic impact analysis by Regional Economic Models, Incorporated (REMI) concluded that a carbon fee that began at $10 per ton and increased by $10 per year, with all net revenue returned to households as an energy dividend, would carry substantial environmental, health, and economic benefits:[5][6]

  • CO2 emissions in the United States would decrease to 50% of 1990 levels in the first 20 years.
  • Over the same timespan, reductions in airborne pollution that accompanies CO2 emissions would result in 230,000 fewer premature deaths.
  • Regular dividend payments would stimulate the U.S. economy, leading to the creation of 2.8 million jobs over baseline during the program's first two decades.
  • The stimulative effect was also found to positively affect national GDP, adding $70–85 billion per year for a cumulative 20-year increase of $1.375 trillion over baseline (the approximate equivalent of adding an additional year of growth during that span).

A 2016 working paper from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis looked more narrowly at the impact of Carbon Fee and Dividend on American households during the first year.[7] Due to the shorter window analyzed (which did not allow for considerations of changes to personal energy use under the policy) the paper found a smaller percentage of households benefiting from Carbon Fee and Dividend than the REMI report summarized above (53%, vs. approximately two-thirds in the REMI report). It also found that an additional 19% of households suffered a loss of less than .2% of annual income, an amount that might be experienced as effectively "breaking even" by households in the upper income quintiles most likely affected.


Climate Lobby (an organization distinct from Citizens' Climate Lobby) queried sources in business and finance to collect potential criticisms about Carbon Fee and Dividend (Climate Lobby responses to each are summarized in parentheses):[8]

  1. The “fee” will just cause companies to raise costs to the public. (Response: Returning fees collected to the public will protect individuals from increased costs and incentivize increased use of low-carbon energy goods and energy).
  2. The government will be taking a huge cut for “overhead” to distribute the dividends and maintain the apparatus. (Response: The policy goal must be to minimize overhead costs by distributing dividends equally and using existing administrative channels).
  3. Climate Scientists should do climate science and economists should handle the economy. (Response: Climate and economics are intrinsically linked, and must be considered as such).
  4. Since Cap & Trade is already on the table. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to get it passed, then try to refine the policy or push Carbon Fee and Dividend? (Response: Passing an ineffective policy might create the false impression that the climate problem has been solved; it is critical that we pass the simplest, most transparent policy from the start).
  5. Shouldn’t we concentrate on enabling new technologies and businesses to develop needed technology and methods to solve this problem by enabling market forces to drive solutions? (Response: Reducing subsidies also reduces political infighting, increasing chances of passage).
  6. Will the progressive fee affect costs in third world nations. Isn’t there a justice issue? (This is a serious concern, but must be judged against the human costs of climate change in the developing world, which may well be disastrous).
  7. Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Fee and Dividend. Isn’t any policy a good start? (Response: Similar to #4; the urgency of climate change demands that we push for the optimal policy from the start, since the inefficiencies of cap-and-trade risk breeding cynicism about the effectiveness and transparency of climate policy).


British Columbia has implemented a carbon tax that could be considered a "fee and dividend", although there are some differences.[9] Rather than entirely or mostly being returned as a dividend to households, 73% of the carbon tax is used to reduce corporate and small business taxes. Moreover the tax is not revenue-neutral.

Country Region Year started Price of carbon Price of CO2 Per year progression
Canada British Columbia 2008[10] $10 per ton unlisted $5 per year

Political support[edit]

Carbon Fee and Dividend is the preferred climate solution of Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL).[11] Citizens' Climate Lobby argues that a fee-and-dividend policy will be easier to adopt and adjust than relatively complicated cap-and-trade or regulatory approaches, enabling a smooth, economically-positive transition to a low-carbon energy economy.[12] James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies has frequently promoted awareness of Carbon Fee and Dividend through his writings [13][14] and frequent public appearances, as well as his position at Columbia University.[15]

Inspired by the market-friendly structure of Carbon Fee and Dividend, Republican Congressman Bob Inglis introduced H.R. 2380 (the 'Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009')[16][17] in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13, 2009. Congressman Inglis considers Carbon Fee and Dividend to be a solution with great potential appeal for conservatives;[18] concerned about energy infrastructure as an issue of national security, he supports Fee and Dividend as the a reliable means of reducing dependence on foreign oil.[19]

Another bill partly inspired by the Fee and Dividend structure was introduced by Democratic Congressman John B. Larson on July 16, 2015.[20] H.R. 3104, or the “America’s Energy Security Trust Fund Act of 2015" includes a steadily rising price on carbon but uses some revenue for job retraining, and returns the remainder of revenue via a payroll tax cut rather than direct dividend payments.

On September 1, 2016 the California Assembly Joint Resolution 43, "Williams. Greenhouse gases: climate change", was filed, having passed both houses.[21] The measure urges the United States Congress to enact a tax on carbon-based fossil fuels. The proposal is revenue-neutral, with all money collected going to the bottom 2/3 of American households. It may have difficulty passing in Congress because it would be considered a tax, but if households were to receive an equal share in the form of a dividend then the legislation should properly class as a carbon fee. Thus California's recommendation for national legislation is perhaps close to being acceptable to Congress.


  1. ^ "Carbon Fee and Dividend (Citizens' Climate Lobby)". citizensclimatelobby.org. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  2. ^ "FAQs". Carbontax.org. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 
  3. ^ Taylor, Jerry (March 23, 2015). "The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax" (PDF). Niskanencenter.org. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  4. ^ Shultz, George; Becker, Gary (April 7, 2013). "Why We Support a Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 6, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Carbon Fee and Dividend's Economic Impact". citizensclimatelobby.org. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  6. ^ Nystrom, Scott; Luckow, Patrick (9 June 2014). The economic, climate, fiscal, power, and demographic impact of a national fee-and-dividend carbon tax (PDF). Washington, DC, USA: Regional Economic Models (REMI) and Synapse Energy Economics (Synapse). Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  7. ^ Ummel, Kevin (April 1, 2016). "Impact of CCL's proposed carbon fee and dividend policy: A high-resolution analysis of the financial effect on U.S. households" (PDF). International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis working paper. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Q&A – Faqs". Climate Lobby. 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 
  9. ^ https://canada.citizensclimatelobby.org/laser-talk-the-bc-carbon-tax-vs-ccls-carbon-fee-and-dividend/
  10. ^ "Balanced Budget 2008 - Province of British Columbia". Bcbudget.gov.bc.ca. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Citizens Climate Lobby". Citizens Climate Lobby. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Carbon Fee and Dividend FAQ". Citizens Climate Lobby. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  14. ^ "James Hansen rails against cap-and-trade plan in open letter". The Guardian. London. 12 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "People's Climate Stewardship / Carbon Fee and Dividend Act of 2010" (PDF). Columbia.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2010. 
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ Inglis, Bob (January 5, 2016). "Donald Trump and the Strength of Ten Grinches". The Daily Caller. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  19. ^ Breslow, Jason (October 23, 2013). "Bob Inglis: Climate Change and the Republican Party". PBS.org. Frontline. Retrieved July 8, 2016. 
  20. ^ "America's Energy Security Trust Fund Act of 2015 (H.R. 3104)". Govtrack.us. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  21. ^ "AJR-43 Greenhouse gases: climate change". California Legislative Information. 1 September 2016. Retrieved September 12, 2016. 

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