Environment Picture

Putting a price on carbon

More than 20 Michigan volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) traveled to Capitol Hill this summer and joined almost 600 other CCL volunteers from across the country to lobby members of Congress for bipartisan legislation that puts a price on carbon.

We met with 500 House and Senate offices that week and shared the news that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would be good for the economy. We brought with us a new study from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) that examined the impact of a steadily rising fee on carbon with revenue returned to households as a monthly dividend check. The study shows that after 20 years, a fee on carbon dioxide rising $10 per ton each year would add 2.8 million jobs to the economy, increase GDP and real income, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent.

Returning revenue to households is key

This study contradicts the belief that addressing climate change is bad for the economy. The key is returning the revenue to households. After 10 years, a family of four would get an annual dividend of $3,456. That translates into consumer spending that helps to grow industries tied to household income, such as health care, retail and construction. In Michigan, auto and related manufacturing would benefit from consumers with more disposable income who are incentivized to replace their older cars with more fuel-efficient models.

“The REMI study generated a lot of buzz on Capitol Hill,” said Danny Richter, CCL’s legislative director. “We heard back from a lot of our volunteers who met with Republican offices that there was a great deal of interest in the REMI study. We turned some heads.”

Bipartisan coalition cites high cost of global warming

A carbon tax is gaining traction with prominent conservatives and progressives alike. In fact, the same day we were having lobby meetings, a bipartisan coalition led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson released the Risky Business report on the high cost that global warming will have on the U.S. economy if left unchecked. A few days earlier, The New York Times published an op-ed by Paulson calling for a carbon tax.

“When people like former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and (former Secretary of State) George Shultz, both Republicans, start talking about the extreme risk of taking no action on global warming, it increases the pressure on Congress to come up with solutions,” said Mark Reynolds, CCL executive director. “Members of Congress and their staff were listening to our proposal in a way they hadn’t before, and the Risky Business report certainly helped to pique their interest.”

Border tariff adjustment proposed

Carbon fee skeptics often cite the lack of action by other nations as a reason for the U.S. to wait. But research shows that countries responsible for about 50 percent of worldwide carbon emissions already have a carbon pricing mechanism in place or planned. The U.S. and Russia are the only two of the world’s top 10 economies without a carbon price. CCL’s proposal includes a border tariff adjustment imposed on goods imported from nations without similar carbon-pricing mechanisms. This serves two important purposes: (1) to encourage more nations to adopt equivalent carbon pricing and (2) to discourage businesses from relocating where they can emit more CO2.

Motivated citizens work for solutions

The hundreds of volunteers in Washington paid their own way and came on their own time, showing just how committed they are to working for a solution to climate change. CCL now has nearly 200 volunteer-led chapters across the U.S., including eight chapters in Michigan, that advocate for a carbon fee that gives all revenue back to households, or carbon fee and dividend (FAD).

“Being a part of Citizens’ Climate Lobby has been such a rewarding experience,” said Ginny Rogers from Ann Arbor. “The extraordinary problem of climate change is going to take action from a lot of ordinary people, and I feel very empowered as part of the solution.”
-Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Michigan is MEC’s newest member group. Elizabeth Dell, Michigan state director, and Kate Madigan, MEC, contributed this story
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