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Conservation In Mind – Effective, efficient, fair – Carbon pricing

By Frances Lamberts

The terror which thousands of Australians and millions of wild animals have been facing for weeks through uncontrolled fires is a stark reminder of what can await people and their environment, everywhere, should climate change be allowed to continue unabated.

Although many efforts at municipal and state levels in the U.S. aim to address this problem, significant action to halt the threat of more climate disruption is yet lacking at the federal level.  From the White House comes a string of reversals of positive policy measures taken by prior administrations, while legislation to reduce carbon emissions – root cause and primary driver of climate change – is yet stalled in the Congress.

Questions about effectiveness of legislation, its cost and their impacts on constituents, are legitimate for our Representatives to weigh carefully. But for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), the expected results could hardly be more promising.

An independent assessment of this bill, published in November by the Center on Global Energy at Columbia University, confirms its positive impact expectations. The authors judge it to be highly effective, curbing the carbon emissions nearly 40 percent by 2030. This would exceed the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement, approaching what the scientists urge will be necessary to accomplish this decade.

The bill would impose a slowly rising charge, of $15 initially per ton of carbon emissions, on the fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – while imposing a border adjustment to protect US manufacturers. It will give greater planning certainty to businesses and more strongly motivate investment in non-polluting and energy-conserving technologies. Several hundred global companies reportedly already have instituted “internal carbon pricing” to favor low-emission products.

Substantial resources will be generated by the bill, these not going into government coffers but returned to the taxpayer each month in the form of a carbon dividend.  In the first year of the policy, the authors suggest, an American adult would receive some $250 total, rising to between $1,410-1,470 by 2030. Best of all, as the Columbia and earlier studies found, average low- and middle-income households will see a financial benefit by receiving more in monthly dividends than their cost through an anticipated increase in energy prices.

Like often in the past on other social issues, official carbon pricing seems an idea whose time has come. Congressman Roe should join his House colleagues on such climate-action bills as H.R. 763.