The Global Conference on Environmental Taxation has been a terrific experience. Participants hail from 23 different countries, with a solid contingent from Asia. The presentations are all very timely. One of my favorite moments was when two scholars from China, Mingde Cao and Mingming Liu, discussed whether the Chinese government would move forward with a cap-and-trade regime or a carbon tax. Note that China has just today announced their decision to move forward with a cap-and-trade program. The scholars discussed the various advantages of a carbon tax (flexibility, management of uncertainty, administration), but they favored a carbon tax primarily because it was less susceptible to corruption. I later talked with them about the courage that it takes to speak publicly about the risks of fraud and corruption. They said that technology has given Chinese society greater access to information and that people have become more bold about discussing these matters. They agreed that the government's current concern with corruption also provides an important context for discussing these issues.
The keynote address last night was by Bob Carr, former Premier of New South Wales. Taking Teddy Roosevelt as his inspiration, he created over 400 new state parks, preserving significant stands of old growth forest, and cleaned up Sydney Harbor so that now the dolphins and the whales Have returned. He said that our mandate must be to increase environmental literacy. All our work to preserve, to restore and to protect our environmental resources is a living "conversation we are having with the future and future generations." The conference presented Mr. Carr with an award for his work on behalf of the environment. For more information on today's activities, see the GCET conference program.