Kylie Turner is the project co-ordinator for the EMPOWERWA project and writes today about how a price on pollution has worked elsewhere.
I am often asked why I am so hopeful that pricing pollution can work.
I think pricing pollution can work because Australians are so clever. If we are given an incentive to innovate, we will. Think refrigerator, notepad, hills hoist, solar hot water, dual flush toilet. All of these items were invented by Australians. Because we can, because we are clever.
I know that pricing pollution can work because it is not a new concept, it has been used before and has worked before.
So where has pricing pollution worked?
Pricing sulphur dioxide oxide pollution reduced the emissions causing acid rain in the United States faster than anticipated.
"Acid rain" is a broad term referring to water droplets that are unusually acidic because of atmospheric pollution - most notably the excessive amounts of sulfur and nitrogen released by cars and industrial processes. Acid rain can also be called acid deposition because this term includes other forms of acidic precipitation such as snow, for now though, we will call it 'acid rain'.
Like carbon pollution, acid rain can because of natural events like volcanoes erupting but it is largely caused by the release of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide during fossil fuel combustion.
When sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are discharged into the atmosphere they react with the water, oxygen, and other gases already present there to form sulfuric acid, ammonium nitrate, and nitric acid. These then fall back to the Earth as 'acid rain'.
When the American Government acknowledged that acid rain was causing substantial damage and harm, (insert date) a price-based scheme was introduced to reduce pollution causing acid rain.
Sulphur dioxide, was priced in 1995. In the first year, sulphur dioxide pollution from power plants dropped by 3 million tonnes and by 2002 pollution levels were 41% lower than those measured in 1980. Later, an emissions limit was introduced to reduce nitrous oxide pollution.
Image source http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progress/ARP09_4.html