South Orange City Council Endorses Carbon Pricing

Hogan is a rising junior at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he is majoring in Environmental Studies and Philosophy and is active in the fossil fuel divestment movement. In 2016, he and other students were the first to officially present on divestment to the St. Lawrence Board of Trustees. Excited by the potential widespread appeal of a price on carbon, Hogan plans to launch a #PutAPriceOnIt campaign at St. Lawrence in the fall of 2017. A self-proclaimed foodie, Hogan has a passion for environmentally-conscious eating habits such as eliminating food waste and eating local and homemade. He is known to scrape peanut butter jars clean and gleefully eat leftovers in the name of “No food waste.”

This summer, in addition to his work as a Fellow, Hogan is a political intern for the New Jersey Sierra Club and an intern for the South Mountain Conservancy, a nonprofit that cares for North Jersey’s South Mountain Reservation.

With global CO2 emissions at over 35 billion metric tons per year, no rational individual could suggest their personal actions can solve the larger problem of climate change. Our global society is reliant on such drastic emissions, which have already altered the composition of our atmosphere, in order to support a growing population and improvement in the standard of living for billions of people. Even while I am dedicated to preventing food waste that I scrap every visible bit of peanut butter from the container before recycling it, I know that such actions will do little in the grand scheme of things. Coal and natural gas power plants continue to generate most of our electricity, plastic manufacturers continue to make single-use containers, and airlines continue to offer their emissions-intensive services. The world will continue business as usual, failing to address the dire situation generated by our fossil fuel addiction.

But I remain finicky about eating absolutely everything in my house before it goes bad. Why? Because I hold out hope in the impact of collective action. If more and more individuals adopt sustainable habits, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprints. And with the potential of a 4+°C warmer future, every bit of collective mitigation in the present can lighten the climate change impact on future generations.

Yet I acknowledge that there is an urgent need for big change. Change that nobody can deny will make a dent in global emissions. That’s where carbon pricing comes in. By reflecting the damage done to our atmosphere in the cost of fossil fuels, we can harness the economic system already in place to transition to a more sustainable society. A price on carbon rewards those individuals and corporations who pioneer new green technologies or help companies and organizations switch to renewables. The urgency of climate change necessitates solutions that do not involve a revolution of our political and economic system and, further, are solutions that can easily generate majority support, the primary force in a democratic republic. A price on carbon fulfills these requirements while decreasing the viability of fossil fuels as an energy source.

I became a fellow with #PutAPriceOnIt in order to push for a carbon pricing policy that brings about dramatic emissions reductions now, rather than the transition of business-as-usual. Just as we can collectively make a direct impact through daily habits, we can also work together daily through venues like #PutAPriceOnIt to indirectly lead the U.S. and the world into a renewable future.
My first effort as a #PutAPriceOnIt fellow was to seek a carbon pricing endorsement from my hometown. Carbon pricing endorsements harness the particularly loud voice of influential individuals and institutions like local government to reach the ears of our state and national representatives. In late June, I presented on carbon pricing to my town’s Board of Trustees in the local concert hall (where their meetings are held). The trustees recognized the power of their endorsement as a local legislative body and recommended an immemdiate drafting of a carbon pricing resolution. I worked with the town Environmental Commission on that resolution, then followed it through the public hearing process until it was approved unanimously by the board on June 10, 2017. As part of the resolution, the endorsement was sent out to the various offices of our county and congressional representatives.

As I explained to the Trustees, a price on carbon is no small piece of the larger puzzle of climate change. Studies show reductions in emissions beyond our promises made in the Paris Agreement with the implementation of a national price on carbon along with a border adjustment tax. Altering the price to pollute has already proven itself in places like British Columbia, where emissions per capita dropped 12.9% in the 5 years following the policy’s implementation. The U.S. climate change movement is stronger than ever, with more advocates, more resources, and more passion than ever before. If we channel this energy into the simple strategy of pricing carbon, we can and will alter the future of our climate, even if I can’t get all my friends to finish every bit of food on their dinner plate.

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