Understanding carbon taxation as a tool to regulate CO2

Air pollution

  |  2 minute read

To tackle climate change we need to be in it for the long haul. This means not just encouraging people to adopt the pro-environmental behaviours which are vital for achieving net zeros but also using that behaviour change to provide governments with the mandate for climate action. 

At Saïd Business School and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment we are leveraging insights from behavioural sciences to understand how we can keep concerns at the top of our minds. 

  • At the individual level, given the ever-evolving multi-media landscape, what novel communication tools can help people understand, and vividly imagine the consequences of failing to address climate change.
  • At the societal level how might climate-related video games and VR help to engage diverse, global audiences and allow them to learn about environmentally sustainable behaviour along the way? 

Ximeng Fang and Stefania Innocenti are researching what impacts the public acceptance for carbon taxation, a key cornerstone of effective climate policy. Their research shows how far acceptance is dependent on both social motives and individual perceptions of the policy. As part of their work the Oxford Smith School created these three explainer videos about carbon tax and used them when they conducted a representative survey in the USA. 

What is CO2?


What is CO2 and how does it affect the climate?

The first video defines carbon dioxide (CO2) and its effects on the global climate. While extreme weather events such as heat waves and droughts are already occurring with higher frequency today, we must become carbon neutral by 2050 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Potential policies to achieve carbon neutrality can include putting a price on carbon emissions.

How can we regulate CO2?


How can we regulate CO2 in a way that would benefit the economy?

The second video explains that if a nationwide price on carbon emissions in the United States was introduced, burning a lot of fossil fuel would become more expensive. This would motivate companies to reduce carbon emissions and invest in cleaner energies, thus facilitating the transition to a decarbonised economy.

The benefits of carbon dividends


How can carbon dividends benefit the communities and protect the environment?

The third video builds a scenario around what would potentially happen if carbon pricing was introduced: products and services with high carbon emissions would become relatively more expensive, and their sales would drop. To protect households from short- to medium-term increases in the costs of fuel and energy, the money collected from carbon fees could be redistributed equally to all Americans through carbon dividend cheques. As low-income households tend to have lower carbon footprints, their financial gain would be higher.


The Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment brings public and private enterprise together with world-leading research to achieve global net-zero emissions and sustainable development. These videos were created by asset and motion graphic design Liliana Resende at the Oxford Smith School.