The Price of Carbon

16143575_934077086723925_3204757763914741379_oAn evening of film and discussion sponsored by Carleton Sustainability Office

By Janet Petri

It’s always exciting to find that there are allies out there of whom you were unaware. That’s what I found on September 25 when listening to an organizer from the Put a Price On It campaign.

Here’s the backstory: In 2013 a few “20-somethings”  got together in southern Oregon seeking action on climate.  They knew that their peers shared their concerns.  But what would be the best way to get people to turn out and to work together? They started with a participatory community art project, creating a giant salmon mosaic. And then these millennials created an organization called Our Climate, inspired by Citizens Climate Lobby, with the goal of passing a carbon fee and dividend bill in Oregon. They had success in getting a carbon pricing study funded by the legislature, and in getting supporting resolutions from local governments in Oregon. Their organization grew beyond Oregon, and got the attention of the National Geographic climate documentary series Years of Living Dangerously.

The ourclimate.us website notes:

“Though 80 percent of millennials want action on climate, there is a noticeable lack of youth involvement in the climate policy sphere…. Many of the groups occupying this crucial space space tend to comprise older, often retired activists…. Focused organizing can dramatically narrow the youth gap between ideals and action on climate.”

They might have a point there!

While work continues in Oregon, Our Climate is now also organizing at a national level. They are working with carbon pricing campaigns in a number of states. In addition, they are conducting the Higher Ed Carbon Pricing Initiative, asking college presidents to endorse carbon pricing. Many have done so; the list of institutions involved includes Swarthmore, Macalester, Pomona, UW Oshkosh, and many others.

At the Carleton event I had the opportunity to watch the episode from Years of Living Dangerously that featured the Our Climate organizers. There was a good turnout of Carleton students, CCL members, and other concerned members of the community, and there was an opportunity for questions and discussion.

The speaker stated that about 15% of global carbon emissions are currently priced.  She reported that Our Climate holds that carbon pricing must follow four principles:

  1. The price must be strong and grow over time.
  2. It must cast a wide net (CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas).
  3. It must be just and equitable.
  4. It must enforce a durable price.  In other words, if it is unpopular it will be repealed.

The implications of #3 and #4 are that that a carbon fee will be most fair and most durable if it is returned to households as a rebate or dividend.

It was a good evening that drew in students, the “older activists” mentioned above, and those in between.

You might want to take a look at the websites or Facebook posts of the groups mentioned here:

ourclimate.us

theclimatesolution.com

facebook.com/putapriceonit/

And of course, last but not least:  citizensclimatelobby.org

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