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Tesla’s Elon Musk calls for carbon tax

Elon Musk, engineer, inventor and CEO of Tesla Motors is calling for the introduction of a carbon tax. In an address to students at Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris, Musk called for nations to adopt a carbon tax in order to speed up the transition from carbon-emitting fossil fuels to renewable energy technologies.

Attended by representatives from nearly 200 countries, the Paris Climate Summit is the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The aim of summit is to achieve a legally binding agreement to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrialised levels – a threshold, most scientists believe, that if exceeded will lead to dangerous and irreversible climate change.

Speaking at the university, a side event to the Paris Climate Summit, Musk urged students to campaign and lobby governments to implement policy introducing a price on carbon.

“To make it neither a left or right issue, we should make it a revenue-neutral carbon tax,” explains Musk.

“By progressively increasing the carbon tax and reducing tax in other areas like consumption taxes or VAT, would give companies time to react, so a phased approach should be adopted.”

By placing a price on carbon, the cost of generating power from energy resources such as coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuel-based derivatives – a major cause of man-made climate change – would increase. And, depending on the level at which the price is set, could shift investment from ‘dirty’ generators, such as coal-fired power plants, to cleaner renewable energy technologies such as PV, solar, wind and geothermal.

“If countries agree to an appropriately priced and targeted carbon tax, we could see a transition [to clean energy] that has a 15- to 20-year timeframe as opposed to a 40- or 50-year timeframe,” says Musk.

Musk, who’s scheduled to address delegates at the Paris talks to outline his ideas for mitigating climate change, is critical of previous climate summits: “The Paris talks are likely to bring about degrees of success, but nothing came out of the Copenhagen climate talks, where there was a net increase, rather than decrease in global warming. We need to send a clear message that this time there needs to be significant change,” he says.

Musk, however, is optimistic about positive outcomes of COP21. A position supported by a movement emerging from the talks, with billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and other high profile entrepreneurs, pledging to kick-start a “new economic revolution” based on investment in renewables.

Australia is well placed to benefit from increased investment in renewables. According to a recent report from the Energy Supply Association of Australia, 15% of Australian homes have solar panels installed – the highest rate in the world. A fact acknowledged by Musk, who has indicated that he sees Australia as the first market for Tesla’s Powerwall battery storage technology units, which could be available in Australia by the end of 2015.

– Carl Williams