Recombinant Records

Green Tax Shift

Green Tax Shift cartoon

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Environmental policy is not a matter of black and white.<br />Our environmental problems are not caused by 'evil' corporations trying to destroy the planet.<br />They are the unintended side-effects of human progress and development.<br />Every product, every service that we produce has a mix of 'good' and 'bad' qualities.<br />Our challenge is to maximise the good and minimise the bad.</p><p>Economic markets fail when the total costs of an activity are not measured by its price.<br />If the total societal costs are not internalised by the company conducting an activity...<br />...these costs are 'externalised' and passed to society to remedy.<br />This is an inefficient way for our world to operate, and it is created unintentionally by our current laws and mindset.</p><p>Our current approach to taxation is twisted and tangled.<br />So often it discourages the activities that we want more of...<br />...and encourages activities that we want less of.<br />Our current system throws a blanket over all businesses operating in the economy,<br />regardless of the burden their activities place on society and the environment.<br />We need a 'green tax shift'...<br />A change from taxes on good activities (employment, investment, goods, services)<br />...towards taxes on bad activities (waste, pollution, bads, disservices)</p><p>Green taxes work because they do not suppress business activity in general.<br />Rather they specifically target the waste and pollution that would otherwise burden society.<br />Green taxes would be introduced at a rate equal to the roll-back of existing taxes,<br />as the primary aim is not to grab for cash, but to provide incentive for businesses to invest in clean technology and practices.<br />A green tax shift supports business leaders, who would no longer be conflicted about caring for society versus maximising shareholder profits.</p><p>Following a green tax shift, the tax a business pays would be proportional to the amount of waste generated.<br />Instead of companies profiting from externalising as much waste as possible into the environment, companies would profit from removing as much waste as possible from their processes.<br />Companies would continue their relentless quest for profits...<br />...but would create a competitive advantage from leaving a light footprint on the planet while conducting business.</p><p>Each year, businesses would be rewarded for being more efficient than their rivals...<br />...but they would be kept on their toes as governments steadily raise their standards for 'best practice' over time...<br />...and gradually expand the scope of taxes to include more and more categories of waste.<br />Over time the green tax shift would rid more and more inefficiencies out of businesses...<br />...and profitably lead us to a more sustainable economy...<br />and a cleaner environment.</p><p>Pollution is not an inevitable by-product of industrial 'progress'...<br />...it is an indication of exactly where our designers, inventors and engineers stopped innovating under our current laws and incentives.<br />We are all responsible for inspiring the behaviour of industries in our economy.<br />Our current system forces businesses to be the 'bad guys'.<br />It's time to change the law and let them become the good guys.</p><p>Rather than wondering how to clean up the mess left by industry...<br />...let's turn industry itself into the force that reverses humanity's impact on the planet.<br />Let's begin the green tax shift. 8 x A4 page PDF file (6 MB)

24 Comments on "Green Tax Shift"

  1. Daniel Gr. on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 3:50 am 

    “Pollution is not an inevitable byproduct of ‘industrial progress’… …it is an indication of exactly where our designers, inventors, and engineers stopped innovating under current laws and incentives.”

    This is neither true nor really in line with what the rest of your comic is about. It’s not fair to put any blame on designers, inventors, or engineers. Innovation never stopped; industry management just never adopted the new technology, because _they_ never had an incentive to do so. (After all, wasn’t that the point of your comic?)

  2. Stuart on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 7:40 am 

    Point taken, but the sentence doesn’t necessarily imply blame on the part of the designers, inventors or engineers. They too have to face the realities of the current economics, whether they like it or not.

    By the way, the line was originally “designers, inventors, engineers and investors”, but I cut it for space reasons.

  3. Andrew on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 8:44 am 

    The tax targets the profits of the corporation directly, being green directly correlates to more profits for the corporation.

    This is an excellent idea, how would one go about implementing such a tax?

  4. Andrew McMillen on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 12:20 pm 

    I for one love Stu’s new method of presentation. That pop-up box works really well.

  5. Geoff on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 12:23 pm 

    I love this comic.
    Now what.

  6. IanK on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 8:30 pm 

    You have a great way of communicating a big message in a simple way. Trying to get people to understand the real costs of externalities is not easy and it generally takes a lot of explaining. One CEO I know figures it will take his company over 10 years to neutralize all externalities.

  7. Wilf on Tue, 7th Dec 2010 10:54 am 

    A great demonstration of the power of imagery to convey part of the economic conundrum. However, even a Green Tax regime such as this is still nested within a superordinate dynamic of growth rather than one of contraction and steady state. Stuart, I would love to work with you on using your talents to illuminate the important issues around growth (eg diminishing return on happiness and resilience beyond scale etc etc). Cheers Wilf

  8. Mike Boyd on Tue, 7th Dec 2010 4:05 pm 

    Amazing work Stuie!

    For a visual learner like myself, you couldn’t have presented such a complex message any clearer – well done.

    Now, let’s get this in front of as many eye balls as possible!

    Cheers, Mike

  9. The Green Tax Shift « Jamie Klinger on Wed, 8th Dec 2010 3:03 pm 

    [...] of the problem, but it rains truth on the subject, that’s for certain. Enjoy the source. :carbon, fossil fuels, green tax, problem, renewable resources, [...]

  10. Bill Baker on Fri, 10th Dec 2010 2:13 am 

    Hurray! Great communication, Stuart. On my office window I replaced a Savage Chickens from a couple of weeks ago — the one about Lassie opening a jar (it was pretty funny, I thought) — with your latest comic!

    Right, I felt comfortable putting it up there because you did a great job getting this point across in a non-partisan way. I think (hope?) this comic can appeal to all stripes.

    A previous poster asked, “Now what.” The inaction and resistance we see is really pessimism; new systems always seem to get corrupted and misused, and people are tired of that — they’d rather have the broken system they have than an unknown one that could be worse.

    But you’ve got to keep on trying to inspire some optimism; change follows awareness. And any lasting optimism has to be based on specifics. I think your art is brilliant and inspiring.

  11. Daniel Gr. on Fri, 10th Dec 2010 2:33 am 

    “Point taken, but the sentence doesn’t necessarily imply blame on the part of the designers, inventors or engineers. They too have to face the realities of the current economics, whether they like it or not.”

    I understand you don’t mean it to put blame on them for their intentions, but it still puts some of the burden of the failure on them. Either way, it’s still false. Green technology has advanced at a steady pace without any proper investment from industry. Universities and nonprofit scientific institutes have been working hard on many great ideas, with many great successes, from hydrogen fuel cells to carbon scrubbing, desertech to fusion energy, etc.

    What you could say is that with the proper investments from governments and private industry there would be _more_ designers, engineers, and inventors working towards _even more_ innovations.

    My point is really that we could implement the current level of discovery and invention and improve our situation by orders of magnitude. The reason we don’t is lack of commercial investment — but the technology is already there.

  12. Felix on Fri, 10th Dec 2010 6:04 am 

    On of the “bads” you missed is unconstrained population growth. Human activity will *always* consume natural resources (even if it is just sunshine). Too many humans will mean no resources left for the rest of life on the planet.

  13. Claire Ogden on Thu, 16th Dec 2010 8:40 am 

    Great work! I especially liked the carrot in the last frame.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of people who feel so disempowered about the situation saying that green energy is ‘too expensive’, ‘will take jobs away from resource industries’, ‘is bad for the economy’, won’t provide us with enough energy’, ‘will always have to be supplemented by fossil fuel energy’ etc, etc. These arguments are so defeatist and unproductive and the people saying them are often mis-informed. Human beings had done some incredible things. This problem is not too big for us. We have the technology and it’s constantly improving. We could power this entire country on renewable energy in 10 years but we lack the political will. Like your comic demonstrates, we need to be smart about using economic systems to help the transition. There is a lot of money in this world but it’s not distributed well at all. Legislation and economic reform can be a powerful tool and we don’t need to be going back to caveman days with no electricity to get to a greener future.

    I like that your comic offers a real solution. There is no one answer, obviously we need a combination of angles, but the answers are there we just need to make the changes.

  14. Taxes | The Fifth Estate on Thu, 24th Feb 2011 7:54 am 

    [...] the full comic Green Tax Shift 24 February, [...]

  15. Ruthie on Fri, 4th Mar 2011 6:44 pm 

    I’m passing this onto my kids teachers.. My 12 year old understood what it was saying! I reckon it should be compulsary reading for kids studying Economics, don’t you think?
    :)

  16. IanK on Sat, 5th Mar 2011 10:06 am 

    Good stuff, Stu! The message you communicate in a dozen or so frames is more than most students would retain from reading any number of books and papers on the subject.

    Getting the broad message across quickly and succinctly is better than getting high level accuracy and specificity in all areas.

    Keep going,

    Ian K

  17. Andy on Sat, 5th Mar 2011 11:06 am 

    Wow. I seriously hope you’re not a teacher. I’d rather my students read a bunch of possibly boring articles, which I as the teacher could then make interesting for them. This comic may be motivational but it’s highly subjective, incorrect in many areas (though well intentioned) and would do well to cite its sources. Pass on to your kids’ teachers the concept of peer reviewed journals and search engines like scholar.google.com. Leave the comics to Bat Man.

  18. IanK on Sat, 5th Mar 2011 12:34 pm 

    Actually I am a lecturer and during my program I get students to read at least 5 books on corporate sustainability (from the nearly 100 I have available) and at least 20 well cited papers on related subjects. I also get them to create a full monitoring system for any given business identifying their self chosen boundaries, identifying pressure, state, response issues, use a wide range of indicators, and end up with their recommendations as to how that business could improve economically, socially or in its treatment of natural resources and other identified ecological issues. However as English is rarely their first language, I like to get them started with something simple, like one of Stuart’s cartoons, as a way of orientating them to this subject area. Hence cartoons and other similar media fit into my teaching strategy.

  19. Walmart > Government « Jamie Klinger on Sun, 13th Mar 2011 3:06 pm 

    [...] term profits depend on it! Have a cute comic that I’ve linked to before to illustrate the green-tax-shift :ad age, green, green tax shift, regulators, [...]

  20. Some Bloke on Wed, 18th May 2011 11:45 am 

    To express a dissenting opinion I disagree with this model on the basis that having a model where cooperations are punished by having to pay extra taxes for not cleaning up will only encourage companies to exploit loopholes in the law or by effect through ‘green’ aims which claim they reduce carbon footprint but are, as most ‘green’ measures, overwhelmingly ineffective.

    The overall idea of making industries responsible for cleaning up pollution is not a bad one; but in practice it is simply not feasible.

  21. Some Bloke on Wed, 18th May 2011 11:51 am 

    Additionally, while resources (ie money) help a great deal in solving a problem, sometimes simply throwing resources at a problem will not solve it. Environmental problems right now need technological innovations which actually work and until minds start coming up with those ideas it will continue to be a major issue.

  22. Cranky on Tue, 20th Sep 2011 3:11 pm 

    @Some Bloke

    I feel that exploitation of the tax system is something for another comic. Stu is offering a solution, one of many that must happen in order to prevent further disaster. We have the technological innovations, but unfortunately, they are in the wrong pockets. As of now, there is no, umbrella idea to encourage companies to be more environmentally conscious. The concept of the green tax shift is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

  23. Behold! The new Stuart McMillen comics website - Recombinant Records on Mon, 21st May 2012 9:52 am 

    [...] check out: Challenged (many fan messages from teachers who shared this one with their students) and Green Tax Shift (unknowingly foreshadowed the Australian government’s similar carbon pricing laws, which were [...]