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    China's Going to Tax Carbon: That'll Hit Half the Coal Plants in the World

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    China, the world’s second largest economy, and number one worldwide polluter of greenhouse gases, has announced that it is instating a carbon tax. Yes, China. The country that currently consumes half the planet’s coal. (Coal, of course, is pure carbon.)

    Here’s the news, via Xinhua:

    China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance.

    The government will collect the environmental protection tax … as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry's tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF's website.

    China is also considering taxing high-emissions sectors like air travel. The People’s Republic is also going to raise coal taxes.

    This is huge. In the climate policy arena, it's downright ginormogantic. We'll have to wait to scrutinize the details, but the proposal alone is momentous: Half the coal plants in the world, taxed in favor of environmentally-preferable energy sources.

    And listen: Hear that? That is the sound of the Republicans’ seemingly indefatigable go-to argument against pricing carbon evaporating before their eyes.

    It doesn’t really matter if we reduce carbon emissions here in the U.S., because China is so pollute-y anyway, a bunch of idiots were once fond of saying. Unfortunately, those idiots will have to turn to other excuses now, dredging for scraps amidst an ever-dwindling pool of them. Back to that global cooling thing again, maybe? Or just saying ‘energy tax’ a bunch of times? Maybe try to single out India, which is also pollute-y, but then again, it's smaller and generally scares Americans way less than China. So who knows! Best of luck, idiots! I'm sure you'll come up with something.

    Here’s what I do know:

    There is currently a carbon tax in Australia, the world’s largest coal-exporting nation.

    There is now a carbon tax in China, the world’s largest coal-consuming nation.

    There is nothing of the sort in the United States, the world’s largest historic coal power user.

    Where, I might add, a growing majority of its citizens are in favor of their government addressing the climate problem. Where the best climate scientists have been supporting a price on carbon for years. Where the president, upon first getting elected, said that we were all witnessing the moment the rise of the oceans would begin to slow.

    Now, quite literally, the only thing that is left standing between here and the global community engaging a meaningful debate on how to unilaterally lower climate change-causing emissions are Congressional Republicans. That’s it. They have blocked climate legislation backed by Obama and Democrats at every turn. There’s no blaming China anymore. Their inaction never justified our own, but China was certainly a belligerent player on the international stage, mucking up the process right along with the U.S.

    Now China has a carbon tax it can bring to the table, to point to and tell the global community, 'Yep, we’re working on it. We just taxed half the coal power in the world to fight climate change.' The United States can, in response, point to some weak-ass vehicle emissions standards and as-of-yet unimplemented EPA regulations. Because of climate change-denying Congressional Republicans.

    Quite literally, at this moment, the fate of the planet’s climatic health is left to a handful of conspiratorial, science-blind conservative idealogues.