Fionn Murtagh’s Blog

Themes: information economy, intellectual property, research

Archive for November 2009

Carbon Taxes: What Should Be Taxed? Or: Copenhagen, and ICT as Villain or Hero?

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In Sweden there is a move towards the labelling of all food products in terms of a “climate declaration”, e.g. “Climate declared: 0.87 kg CO2 per kg of product”. See this description of this very useful development.

Viewing a web page generates an estimated 0.02g of CO2 per second. Content rich pages are 10 times greater. We know that the ICT sector’s effect on global CO2 levels is around or more than 2%, the same as (maybe more than) global aviation.

Such observations lead me to think that carbon taxes should apply more to the use of one’s mobile phone or computer, or even a meal, compared to, say, taking of a flight. It is strange that aviation and transport are viewed so often as somewhat villanous or at least environmentally taxable.

ICT though is certainly not always the hero of the hour, even if of course it is the most important part of our society’s infrastructure. One could with justice say that ICT is extremely villanous with regard to environment and climate; and that ICT is extremely virtuous with regard to energy due to the smart (power, rather than data) grid, smart meters, joint roll-out of fiber optic/power distribution/emissions infrastructure.

How best could or should a CO2-equivalent environmental tax be levied? I think on consumpution, like VAT (Value Added Tax in Europe – TVA, MWSt, etc.). Such taxation is not something punative but rather an instrument of policy. Even in micro-amounts we should be clear about what, where and when are impacting negatively on the environment. Indeed – carbon taxes should be applied to the one or more mobile phones and computers in the bag I carry or my pocket. Certainly carbon taxes should be applied to the food on my plate.

Yes indeed, this would be a way to empower the end user and to give full responsibility to me and to you for our actions and behavior.


Written by Fionn Murtagh

2009/11/29 at 23:17