The proposal also says companies that emit greenhouse gases should be protected from lawsuits over their contribution to climate change.
Michael B. Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School and an expert on climate litigation, said there had been four suits brought against energy companies over climate change, including one brought by the eroding Arctic coastal town of Kivalina, Alaska. “None of those has gotten very far,” Mr. Gerrard said, but “there continues to be talk of more.”
Mr. Gerrard added, “If a sufficiently high carbon tax were imposed, it could accomplish a lot more for fighting climate change than liability suits.”
The Climate Leadership Council’s plan sets an initial tax of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced, which would add 36 cents to the cost of each gallon of gasoline sold. The group estimates the tax would raise more than $200 billion a year, and the rate would rise over time, dampening demand for fossil fuels. The average family of four would receive approximately $2,000 in the first year as a carbon dividend, the group says.
Exxon has said for years that it supports a carbon tax, at least in the abstract, but the company had never formally endorsed a proposal. In 2009, the company’s chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, who is now secretary of state, called carbon taxes “a more direct, a more transparent and a more effective approach” than a cap-and-trade proposal Congress was considering at the time.
In a statement, the current chief executive of…