What is carbon pricing? What am I supporting?
Carbon pricing is a policy mechanism that internalizes the cost of carbon in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. According to the World Resources Institute Carbon Pricing Handbook:
Greenhouse gas emissions impose costs on the global community via climate change. A carbon price shifts the burden of these costs from society as a whole to the entities responsible for the emissions, providing an incentive to decrease carbon emissions. Pricing carbon increases the prices of goods across the economy in proportion to their carbon content, and thus in proportion to their effect on climate change.
A carbon fee, levied at the source of extraction, would increase the cost of fossil fuels and make alternative energy sources more competitive. Increasing the price steadily over time would drive innovation and allow businesses and individuals to adapt to changing prices. The revenue from the fee could be returned to households to stimulate economic growth, or used for for climate mitigation and adaptation. Studies have shown that putting a price on carbon would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and grow the economy. Countries that have implemented carbon pricing include Canada, Mexico, China, the United Kingdom, as well as states such as California and the nine Northeast States of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Here is a two minute video from Citizens’ Climate Lobby on carbon pricing.
Is carbon pricing (or even climate change) being supported in Congress? Will my letter have any impact?
Carbon pricing is gaining traction in Congress, even under the current administration. The advocacy of community leaders and engaged citizens led to Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) convening the Climate Solutions Caucus in February of 2016, a bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives to “explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Membership is kept even between Democrats and Republicans and at this time it has grown to 38 members. There are currently efforts in the Senate to establish a parallel caucus structure.
On March 14, 2017, seventeen Republican House Members, led by Reps. Elise Stefanik, Carlos Curbelo, and Ryan Costello, introduced the Republican Climate Resolution. This resolution states that the House should commit to “working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”
University presidents and the higher education sector as a whole are highly influential with members of Congress. In many communities, they are the largest employers and hubs of cultural and intellectual activity. The role of higher education, as creators and disseminators of knowledge and incubators of future leaders, puts it in a unique position to speak out about the dangers of climate change and the moral imperative for action. Now is a critical time to make your voice heard to create change that will benefit students, higher education, and society as a whole.
Cities and municipal councils have also endorsed carbon pricing as a solution to climate change. They include Philadelphia, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon. For a full list of municipal endorsements, click here.
Has any higher education institution endorsed carbon pricing?
Since the endorsement initiative was launched in December 2016, we've seen 16 institutions move forward on endorsing carbon pricing, including Pomona College, Swarthmore, Dickinson, Wesleyan, Portland State University, University of California-Berkeley, and others. All signatories who join by April 30, 2017 will be members of the Leadership Circle and highlighted in the public launch of the campaign in May.
The mission of our institution is education. Is it appropriate for the presidents of higher education institutions to advocate for a cause unrelated to education?
The mission of higher education institutions is education, and the predicted impacts of climate change, including natural disasters, resource scarcity, social unrest, and economic instability, all imperil the ability of universities to carry out their mission and enable today’s students to thrive in the future. The higher costs of food, energy and materials in a climate impacted world will put universities under severe economic and social strain. Universities in coastal communities will not be able to operate if their campuses are under water from floods or sea-level rise.
Beyond the continued functioning of institutions of higher education, the fact that the impacts of climate change will be disproportionately borne by young people and successive generations is a form of intergenerational injustice that is directly counter to the mission of higher education.
Education should not only prepare us to become productive members of society, which in its current trajectory is endangering the foundation for its existence, but it should also prepare us to be critical thinkers, compassionate human beings, and engaged citizens with the courage to resist if institutions of power do not act in our interests. Climate change is a moral issue that higher education has the responsibility to act on right now.
My institution already has a climate action plan or is a signatory of Second Nature’s Climate Commitment. Why should I sign this letter?
We applaud institutions that have taken steps to reduce their own emissions and taken leadership roles in campus sustainability. Now that higher education has modeled sustainability, it needs to let our government know that it too needs to take action. Local, voluntary actions are important, but they do not replace the need for systems change. A national price on carbon would reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors and help us stay within the safe limit of climate change. Without strong policies to address climate change at the national level, no amount of campus sustainability will provide a livable world.
Our institution is committed to nonpartisanship and political neutrality on issues. Would signing this letter signal our support for a policy proposal?
The fact that climate change is dangerous and governments need to take action is neither partisan nor political. Carbon pricing is a policy tool but this letter does not endorse any specific legislation. Conservatives value carbon pricing as a market-based solution with minimal government intervention, while progressives value carbon pricing as a fair, feasible, and effective solution to the climate crisis. Institutions of higher education would be in good company supporting a solution that many Democrats, Republicans, climate scientists, economists, and policy experts deem the most effective solution to climate change.
I’m at a public institution where there are restrictions on lobbying the government that provides us with funds (except on issues directly related to higher education). Can I still sign this letter?
The letter is primarily for members of Congress to encourage them to pass a national price on carbon. Our Climate also works on state campaigns, so please let us know if you do not want us to share your letter with your state legislators.
How will the letter be used?
Individual letters will be sorted by congressional district and shared with your members of Congress in face-to-face meetings. We will also be publicizing the signatories in higher education venues, national and local papers, and other media. The endorsements will be kept as an open letter that on our website and used to gather support from other higher education leaders as well as leaders from other sectors.
What are the benefits for my office in signing this letter?
Presidents who sign the letter by April 30, 2017 will be included in the Leadership Circle and credited in a publicity campaign in May that includes major national media outlets. This is a chance to show your leadership and elevate your institution’s standing through support for this very important and timely issue.
We are at a unique moment in history where the actions we take today will have profound and irreversible consequences for the future. Higher education has long been an engine for scientific and technological progress, which in large measure has shaped the world we live in today. But it also has the intellectual and moral resources to act for the greater good, correct the mistakes of the past, and restrain society from destructive growth.The fate of future generations depend on our willingness to act now, and we endeavor you to join us in this effort by calling for a national price on carbon.