SOLUTIONS: A week’s worth of environmental progress

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By Huck Fairman
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Several encouraging developments dealing with global warming — following the three warmest years on record — have been announced over the last week.
First, the number of countries ratifying December’s Paris climate accord reached the threshold number: 55 nations representing 55 percent of global emissions, required to have the accord take effect. While the accord is not binding and its provisions are not, in themselves, adequate to slow and halt global warming, it is an important step that can be built upon.
Second, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada followed up on his campaign promise to address climate change by introducing a plan to put a price on carbon. The purpose is to reduce the use of CO2 emitting fuels and thereby reduce the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories will choose their own methods of carbon pricing. But this approach has been successfully demonstrated in British Columbia since 2008, with no adverse effects to it economy. The taxes collected on carbon fuels have been refunded to low-income and rural residents, and other taxes were reduced. A majority of provinces, including oil sands-rich Alberta, are already following suit.
Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Our nation has made a similar pledge to be achieved by 2025.
Leading our states, the California Legislature recently approved limits on greenhouse gas emissions. And while not widely publicized, the Obama administration’s loans for renewable energy and plans to raise fuel efficiency standards have and should reduce emissions.
As The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, economics professor emeritus at Princeton, recently noted, the long-term buildup of greenhouse gases is “a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt.”
And in New Jersey too, an impasse has found compromise. Where before, the Christie administration rejected any increase in the state gas tax to fund transportation improvement projects — without a reduction of other taxes — a bill raising the gas tax has been passed by the Democrat-led State Assembly — in exchange for reductions in other taxes. And the governor is expected to approve it. It has support from business, the Chamber of Commerce, and labor groups. Yet even with this projected increase, the state gas tax will be less than those in New York and Pennsylvania.
While the purpose of this bill is not to reduce emissions, it can be taken as a hopeful sign that our political leaders can come together to address, through compromise, (or like Trudeau, lead on) important issues such as transportation, and, not too far in the future, climate change. In the mean time, some state residents may take the gentle nudge to move to either hybrid or electric vehicles, to reduce their fuel costs and their carbon footprint. 
Huck Fairman is a Princeton author who writes SOLUTIONS about environmental issues. 