This article aims to explain why market-based climate policies (carbon levies and emissions trading) have had limited success at the national level in “liberal-market economies” like Australia, Canada, and the United States. This situation is paradoxical to the extent that market environmentalism is often thought to be a concept tailored to the political traditions and policy paradigms in these states. I argue this occurs because precisely in such economies, workers have been the least protected from the market and the effects of globalization, leading to a squeeze on incomes and public services, and providing fertile ground for a virulently antitax politics. When coupled with the disproportionately carbon-intensive lifestyles in these states and the strength of fossil fuel interests, it becomes extremely easy and effective for opponents of climate policy to frame carbon prices as an onerous tax on workers and families. The article explores how this strategy has functioned at a discursive level and considers what this situation implies for climate policy advocates in carbon-intensive, neoliberal polities.

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