Haida Gwaii would be a good place to try carbon fee-and-dividend

Being an archipelago, it would be relatively easy to keep track of fossil fuels coming in from the outside

The islands of Haida Gwai (formerly known as the Queen Charlottes) might make a good place to test carbon fee-and-dividend.

Your editor recently had the opportunity to watch the movie “Haida Gwai: On the Edge of the World.” It left me impressed me with the efforts by the islands’ residents to connect with Nature and with their history.

Watching the movie also gave me an idea.

As some readers are aware, over the past few years I have been interested in a proposal to help control human-caused climate change called carbon fee-and-dividend.

In 2015 my friend Jean Nelson and I cycled nearly 500 km from Toronto to Ottawa to promote nationwide carbon fee-and-dividend. Last year we cycled from Clearwater to north of Kelowna for the same purpose.

Under carbon fee-and-dividend there would be a fee on all fossil fuels, similar to a carbon tax. Unlike a tax, however, all the money collected would not go into general government revenues, but would be distributed to everyone as equal dividends.

It is estimated that, under carbon fee-and-dividend, 2/3 of the population would break even or receive more dividends than they would pay in fossil fuel fees.

In fact, the bottom 20 per cent of earners could expect to receive dividend cheques 150 per cent greater than what they would pay in fees.

Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, the international organization Citizens Climate Lobby and others support carbon fee-and-dividend.

Although it might seem to be primarily an environmental and social justice proposal, it recently was endorsed by a group of prominent Republicans in the United States.

The dividend side of carbon fee-and-dividend is essentially the same as what is called universal basic income – a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country would receive an unconditional sum of money, without regard to whether they receive an income from elsewhere.

Several trials of universal basic income have been done.

These include the MINCOME experiment in Dauphin, MB, in the 1970s. This resulted in some reduction in work hours but also more time spent studying and an improvement in health.

A study of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who receive dividends from casino earnings, found them to have lower instances of behavioural and emotional disorders among the children, an improved relationship between parents and their children, and a reduction in parental alcohol consumption.

We have had several trials of universal basic income at various locations around the world but, so far as I am aware, none of carbon fee-and-dividend.

It would be extremely useful to have such a trial done and it seems to me that Haida Gwai would be the ideal place to do it.

Being an archipelago, it would be relatively easy to keep track of fossil fuels coming in from the outside.

Those fossil fuels are already being charge for B.C.’s carbon tax. Adding a surcharge for the carbon fee-and-dividend experiment (or reducing the tax for the islands only) would therefore be a relatively simple exercise.

Distributing the dividends could be done by cheque or through direct deposit.

It seems to me that now really is the time to take action on climate change – and that a trial of carbon fee-and-dividend on Haida Gwaii would be a useful way to do it.