Washington state lawmakers have passed a sweeping set of environmental regulations meant to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 while pumping billions of dollars into the state coffers and addressing environmental racism. Next, they'll have to make it all work.
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Many corporations, organizations, and governments have made net zero commitments, and most are leaning on voluntary carbon offsetting to achieve these climate goals. But how can we be sure that such carbon offsets demonstrate a real change in the atmosphere? And how can we approach offsetting in a way that gives rise to an actual net zero society?
The burden of climate change will fall disproportionately on the world’s poor: economic damage from increased temperatures will be worse in the Global South, and within any given country climate disruptions affect poorer people more. Yet climate action also has the potential to worsen poverty by increasing prices for basic necessities such as food and energy.
Environmental justice concerns have been at the forefront in discussions of U.S. environmental policy. They have been central, in particular, to discussions of proposals for a nationwide carbon tax to address climate change. While economists tend to favor a carbon tax as the most cost-effective way to promote reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, progressives and EJ groups often oppose this option on the grounds that it is regressive — that it would disproportionately burden low-income households.
The Biden administration has set the social cost of carbon at $51 per ton — 7 times higher than the price set by the prior administration. What does that mean? Economists talk about “untaxed externalities” a lot. That bit of jargon allows them to discuss the failures of the vaunted free market system promoted by reactionaries and Ayn Rand fanatics without actually criticizing them.
Two analyses were recently published that indicate the impact of a carbon tax policy, like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, on the quality and quantity of U.S. jobs. The results are both encouraging and useful for CCL’s climate advocacy.
Seven years ago, the University of California set an ambitious goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2025. The higher education network contracted with a massive solar farm to power its 10 campuses, replaced buses with electric vehicles and experimented with a new tool that turns food waste into methane. Greenhouse gas emissions are 15 percent lower than they were in 2013 — a substantial change for such a large institution, equal to taking tens of thousands of cars off the road for a year. But it’s still a long way from zero.
The United States has been stalled in its approach to climate change, and with attention so heavily focused on the coronavirus pandemic, this may seem an inauspicious moment for action.
A new proposal for how carbon taxes can play well with other policies.
For most of the 21st century, putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions (either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system) has been seen as the serious person’s climate-change policy, preferred by economists, claimed to have bipartisan appeal, and backed relentlessly by tribunes of Beltway conventional wisdom like the Washington Post editorial board.
Transitioning to a low carbon economy is in progress. It is not political. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, a majority of Americans of both parties are in favor.