Proposals to fight climate change can achieve bipartisan support

As our nation endures a record-shattering heat wave, it’s good to see the BND publishing opinion pieces on proposals to stabilize the climate by putting a price on carbon pollution and returning the money collected as a dividend to all U.S. residents.

Putting a price on carbon with a carbon fee or carbon tax is seen by more than 80 percent of economists as being the most effective and the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and to stabilize the climate.

Two recent editorials highlighted a plan from the Climate Leadership Council.

The council, a conservative-leaning group, has brought on former Republican Sen. Trent Lott and former Democrat Sen. John Breaux to lobby for their plan.

Other opinion pieces have highlighted the carbon fee and dividend proposal from Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Our group is a mostly volunteer organization that has promoted its plan for a long time. We believe that in order for their legislation to survive administration and congressional changes, and gain widespread voter support, it must have strong bipartisan backing. To that end, CCL helped establish and grow the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representative, which currently has 43 Democrats and 43 Republicans. Representatives work across the aisle to stem climate change, grow the economy and create jobs.

In both the Council and our group’s proposals, a carbon fee is assessed on fossil fuels, and revenue from that fee is returned to residents as a dividend. Both organizations believe that once residents start getting their carbon dividends, they will not want to give them up.

The carbon fee for both proposals is based on the carbon emissions content (tons of CO2 or CO2 equivalent) of a fuel.

There are, however, some differences between the proposals.

The council’s proposal starts with a high price — $40 per ton — but increases at a slow pace of 2 percent above inflation annually. To sweeten the pot for conservatives, their proposal calls for eliminating regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and forgiving fossil fuel companies from liability in lawsuits. Our proposal includes neither deregulation nor liability forgiveness.

Our proposal starts with a fee of $15 per ton of CO2 and increases by $10 per ton annually. Within 10 years, the price would get to $100 per ton, providing a strong economic incentive to transition to clean energy. The higher fee, of course, will produce higher dividends for households. Our plan is predicted to reduce emissions 90 percent by 2050. It also seeks to cover global warming gases directly leaked into the atmosphere, such as methane released during fracking.

Through the dividend, both proposals will stimulate the economy and add jobs, dispelling the myth that pricing carbon will bring economic ruin.

With both proposals, we have solutions that find common ground between Republicans and Democrats. Given the troubling consequences of climate change we are witnessing, members of both parties must work quickly to enact a fee on carbon with revenue returned to households.

Ronald G. Trimmer is chair of the Southern Illinois Chapter Citizens’ Climate Lobby.