Especially during these times of economic difficulties, plans to restructure the free market capitalist system have gained popularity. One idea, branded as “smarter capitalism,” implements financial incentives to take into account the costs of environmental and social damages. An accompanying Petition for a Green Recovery asks for signatures to tell Congress, “It’s Time to Get Smarter.”
The main tenet of this plan to green America is based on true-cost pricing, which means that products come to the market with a price tag that not only reflects their immediate costs of processing but also their costs to the environment and society. These costs include damages caused by pollution, contribution to climate change, loss of biodiversity and so on.
This true-cost pricing system would be implemented through true-cost pollution prevention (TCPP) taxes. These taxes would be applied at appropriate stages throughout the refining process to the manufacturers. The money collected from these taxes would be divided into two separate funds: 25 percent would be put into bank accounts of adult residents to help cover the initial higher costs of products and services, with the remaining 75 percent going to increase and subsidize the development of green jobs and green industries. This majority of the accrued funds would support this burgeoning job market by:
“a) helping millions of unemployed and low to average income homeowners, renters, businesses and farmers pay for retrofitting their homes, businesses and farms with solar panels, wind turbines, better insulation, non-toxic carpets, etc. b) by helping train millions of unemployed to work in and start green business doing these retrofits as well as c) by helping them buy hybrid and/or electric cars, trucks, scooters, bicycles powered by these same solar panels and wind turbines.”
This model of environmental policy, using a polluter pays incentive to enact changes across the free market system, has been tried with success in other countries. For example, this model of environmental economics led Germany to develop its Duales System Deutschland (DSD) and Green Dot waste removal system. A packing ordinance passed by the German government in 1990 made manufacturers responsible for the life cycle of their products, thus creating a financial incentive for a reduction of packaging created. It also had a side benefit of increasing the reuse and recycling of materials. Similar to the Petition for a Green Recovery, the funds accrued are collected and put into helping sustain the system and encourage other sustainable development projects.
These forms of environmental legislation are an innovative potential answer to the current environmental issues we face as a nation. As arguments against the current cap and trade model for pollution reduction mount, adopting environmental incentives offers a road to increased environmental stewardship without leaving the burden on consumers. By including funds to train and employ workers in green jobs and technologies, the potential to see a green America looks promising. For more information, and to sign the petition, visit the Green Recovery website.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.
Photos from Flickr/kevindooley and Flickr/Leonrw