Op-Ed: The next step in fighting climate change

Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 4:50pm

Congress has finally taken some action on climate change, and the solution is exactly what we’ve been hoping for.

On Nov. 28, three Republicans and three Democrats introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018 in the House of Representatives. This bill, viewed as a free market solution to climate change, is revenue neutral, adds 2.1 million jobs to the U.S. economy and gives American taxpayers hundreds of dollars each month. Oh yeah, it’ll also cut United States carbon emissions by 40 percent in 12 years, which is on par with what the International Panel on Climate Change recommends to keep global warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Here’s how it works:

Carbon Fee

The policy puts a fee on fuels like coal, oil and gas at the source. As soon as the fuel is drawn, a $15 per ton fee will be added to the price. With each year, the fee will grow by $10 to create a progressive policy. Because the price of carbon would increase due to the fee, energy prices for coal, oil and gas would increase as well. This would act as a market-equalizer by incorporating the environmental cost of these fuels. As the price of carbon fuels increases relative to the price of renewable energy, renewable energy will become a more economical option for households. As a result, the demand for renewable energy will increase and companies will be incentivized to invest in renewable technologies that are not subject to the tax.

Carbon Dividend

It’s important that it’s a carbon fee, not a tax. All of the money collected from the fee will be given back to the American people at the end of each month — not diverted to any other programs. Because each American gets the same amount of money, this policy will actually offer some benefits to the middle and lower classes. It’s estimated 53 percent of households will receive more dividend money than they spend on energy costs at the end of the month. Program costs will also be taken out of the funds collected by the fee. The dividend would be given to the people as a general transfer of funds, meaning Americans would be able to spend their money as they see fit.

Border Carbon Adjustment

To protect U.S. manufacturers and jobs, imported goods will also be subject to the carbon fee. As a result, manufacturers will be disincentivized to move overseas to avoid the fee. American goods that are exported will receive a refund for the carbon fee under this policy.

Regulatory Adjustment

The policy prevents redundant carbon regulations as long as the targets are being met. Regulations on auto mileage and other pollutants will not be affected.

This policy is the best way for the United States to amp up its fight against climate change. But first, it needs to get passed in Congress. That might sound like a pretty big order, especially with our current government, but there are ways that you (yes, you!) can have a real impact on the political conversation about climate change.

The most important thing you can possibly do is call or write your representative and tell them you support this bill. Though it might seem like representatives don’t care what you think, they definitely do. Your vote decides whether they have a job in two years, and they are responsible for representing your interests on the national stage. Hold them to that.

There are also several environmental groups that focus on climate activism. I’m a part of the University of Michigan’s chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, an international organization that focuses on speaking to representatives to advocate for the bipartisan passage of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Through this organization, I’ve had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and speak with Michigan senators and House representatives. There are also groups like Climate Blue, Students for Clean Energy and the Climate Action Movement at the University that advocate for campus sustainability.

Our climate can’t wait for us to make slow change. The IPCC Report and the recent U.S. Climate Report say we don’t have that much time left if we want to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. We need to see widespread community action to drive policy if we are going to protect our future and our children’s future. The best way to do that right now is to get Congress to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. We’ve been taking baby steps to combat climate change. It’s high time for us to start sprinting.

Hallie Fox is an LSA sophomore.