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Carbon pricing: A primer for Oxfam

Carbon pricing is not a new phenomenon. Backed by widespread consensus in the economic literature that it is the single most-effective policy for addressing climate change, it has been the staple policy priority of many environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Yet carbon pricing has seen limited uptake. Efforts to price carbon have failed in a multitude of contexts. Where they have passed, in most cases, prices have been set too low or covered too little of the economy to effectively address the challenge posed by climate change. As a result, climate advocates have come to question carbon pricing as a primary policy approach. In this context, this paper is not intended to provide novel insights into carbon pricing, nor is it intended to motivate for or against an immediate campaign priority at Oxfam. Rather, this review of carbon pricing is intended to provide a technical background on the topic, considering the concerns that are of greatest salience to Oxfam. The specific aims of the paper are to support Oxfam staff in their deliberation on whether, when, and how to engage on carbon pricing initiatives, as questions around this policy approach shift over the next 20 years. It is anticipated that such reflection would also be useful to a number of organizations whose concerns are similar to Oxfam’s.


James Morrissey



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