Guest Editorial – from Al Braden
Al Braden is a local environmental activist, photographer, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer.
Austin City Council took a big step last week by becoming the major first city in Texas – and the third largest nationally – to urge Congress to support a Carbon Fee and Dividend program as a market-based solution to climate change. Resolution 20180426-037 passed 10-0, supporting putting a price on carbon pollution nationally and urging our senators and congressmen to support it as well.
Resolution 037 was spearheaded by Council Member Leslie Pool, who serves as the chair of the Open Space, Environment & Sustainability Committee, as well as the chair of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. She also acted as a representative for the City of Austin at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. Her co-sponsors on the resolution included Mayor Steve Adler (who signed the Mayor’s Compact at the Paris Climate Conference) and Council members Pio Renteria, Ann Kitchen, and Allison Alter.
The focused campaign by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) directs Congress to institute a steadily rising fee on CO2 and other greenhouses gases. The fee would be placed on the product as it first enters the economy – at the wellhead, mine, or port of entry. To protect the U.S. economy and encourage worldwide adoption, it would not be charged on imports if an equivalent fee has already been paid in the country of origin.
In the CCL plan, the dividend would be rebated to families on a per capita basis, protecting low and middle-income families from increased costs. They would actually come out ahead – while the tax would influence everyone to make buying decisions favoring products with a lower CO2 content. Those buying choices would ultimately drive innovation to minimize the use of fossil fuels.
A CCL economic study shows that the rebate (blue) is higher than the carbon fee (tax) shown in red for households below the median income. The fee is based on carbon use, while the rebate is per person. (Carbon footprints tend to rise in accordance with income levels.)
The resolution passed in time for an announcement at the Earth Day ATX festival on April 28th at Huston-Tillotson University and will provide a strong case for CCL members meeting with congressional offices in June during their annual lobby day. This year, over 1,200 CCL volunteers from across the country will meet in Washington D.C. with over 500 congressional and senate offices.
Many major cities have already taken this step to spur their congressional delegations. In joining them, Austin can help move the conversation from gridlock to constructive action.
The Carbon Fee and Dividend has the support of leading business and conservative organizations as well as scientists. The CCL Advisory Board shows their full spectrum – including Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, who has consulted on many City of Austin environmental projects and was in Austin this week to speak of how climate change affects water issues.
This market-based approach can realistically bring down our use of carbon by capturing that ‘externality’ that Adam Smith so famously was unable to account for long ago. Perhaps the external effects could be overlooked in Smith’s analysis of sheep farmers and local bakers. In today’s fossil fuel driven global economy it leads to existential crisis.
Simply stated, climate warming pollution can no longer be free of charge. The Carbon Fee and Dividend is an effective and bipartisan way to get a handle on it.
Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.