Politics For a win on climate, let's put our best player in the game
The truth behind companies' 'net zero' climate commitments
Going green is in fashion — but are corporate claims of going green reliable?What do these corporate pronouncements mean? Imagine you want to use your tax refund to buy stock and you pick the oil industry giant BP because you learn the company has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. Or suppose you are a young professional deciding whether to accept a job offer from the consumer products giant Amazon, impressed by the company's claims that it is "committed to" sustainability.
In the game of climate action, a price on carbon is one of the strongest players on the team. And by all accounts, 2021 looks like the championship game for climate policy. President Biden has made the issue a central priority, including, and Congress is going for a win.
This week, representatives in the House introduced a major climate bill to call their strongest player off the bench. It's a bill called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (), which would put a steadily rising price or fee on carbon in order to get America to net zero emissions by 2050. The bill would put that carbon fee revenue right into Americans' pockets as a monthly carbon dividend or "carbon cash back" payment. Led by Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, the bill has 28 co-sponsors - more than two dozen other members of Congress who recognize the effectiveness of this approach.
It's time to declare a national climate emergency
This month, President Biden will convene 40 world leaders to discuss the urgency of climate action and strengthen global cooperation on key climate goals. But before the president takes the global stage at the Leaders Summit on Climate, there's something he should do at home: declare a national climate emergency here in the United States.In recent years, we have seen the effects of the climate crisis, both in our own backyard and around the world. From wildfires raging across Oregon and the West, to hurricanes wreaking havoc in the southeast, and increasing average temperatures everywhere in between, the impacts have been devastating.
This legislation comes on the heels of a wave of carbon pricing endorsements from inside and outside of Congress. In the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced his ownjust a few weeks ago. In February, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney to a "carbon tax, carbon dividend" policy. The latest polling shows that Americans of every political stripe like this approach to reducing emissions, with .
Major business groups, like theand the , have also expressed support for a market-based approach to emissions reductions like a carbon price. The has gone on record that if climate policy is moving forward, their preferred approach is a carbon price that will spur innovation. The just-introduced Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is the latest example of carbon pricing's full court press.
Overnight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' |
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Why is this policy approach the strongest player on the team? This particular bill will slash America's carbon emissions 30 percent in just the first five years. But don't take my word for it - listen to the experts. The scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)that "explicit carbon pricing" is "a necessary condition of ambitious climate policies." The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are also to implement a rising carbon price. Economists like Noah Kaufman, recently named senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, "putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions is a no-brainer."
Giving the carbon fee revenue to Americans as a monthly dividend or "carbon cash back" payment is another strength of this policy. With a regular carbon dividend, most low- and middle-income Americans willor break even - a crucial feature of any policy this year, as people struggle to recover economically from the pandemic. This also aligns with President Biden's commitment not to raise taxes on people earning under $400,000 per year. A carbon price like this doesn't tax people to pay for the transition to a clean-energy economy - instead, it puts money in people's pockets. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is a longtime proponent of the carbon dividend approach, during her confirmation hearing that she and President Biden are "fully supportive of effective carbon pricing."
Biden wants to convince the world America can be trusted on climate change
It’s going to be a tough sell.Senior administration officials spoke with reporters on a Wednesday call ahead of two days of remote meetings featuring world leaders like Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While they didn’t confirm reports that the US hopes to cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, they did answer Vox’s question on why other nations should trust America to keep its climate promises — given the US government has swung wildly on climate policy depending on who the president is.
With all of that support from businesses, scientists, economists, and policymakers themselves, it only makes sense to call this player off the bench.
But even the best player can't win a game alone. A solid team can make sure that player's weak spots are covered and can add new strengths to the mix. The same is true on climate action: a carbon price is a strong, vital policy, and it plays well with others. By shifting the economic incentives away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy, a carbon price will make all of President Biden's proposed infrastructure investments cleaner. For example, a carbon price will help ensure that investments to increase industrial efficiency and retrofit buildings go toward the cleanest technologies available.
We may not even be able to predict how much carbon pricing will advance all our efforts to reduce emissions. As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) recently, "If we do robust carbon pricing, it actually performs better than the models suggest, because you can't predict innovation." President Biden and members of Congress should include a carbon price alongside their other proposed policies to ensure that America makes the transition to a clean-energy economy as quickly and efficiently as possible.
With the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, I'm encouraged to see Congress getting carbon pricing in the game. The championship trophy is a healthy, stable future for ourselves and future generations. Let's win this thing.
Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens' Climate Lobby.
Summit shows Biden's big vision on fighting climate change .
WASHINGTON (AP) — What did the world learn at Joe Biden's global summit about his vision of the battle to save the world’s climate? For two days, Biden and his team of climate experts pressed his case that tackling global warming not only can avert an existential threat, but also benefit the U.S. economy — and the world’s as well. The virtual summit, based at the White House and featuring more than 40 world leaders whose views were beamed to a global online audience, offered fresh details on how the U.S. might hope to supercharge its efforts on climate while leveraging international action to spur new technologies to help save the planet.