By Hayden Higgins, Outreach & Development Coordinator at U.S. Climate Plan
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday the leadership of state campaigns to put a price on climate pollution—including representatives from Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York—gathered in Washington, DC. Together with representatives of national non-profits, they outlined a national strategy to bolster state-level efforts.
With national regulatory efforts falling short of the emissions reductions necessary for climate stability, and hope for federal legislative action at a low, state advocates are vigorously moving forward with inventive and varied efforts to put a price on climate pollution at the state level with the hope that success in such efforts can spur national action.
Kate de Angelis, a climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “The leadership of this Congress has made hindering efforts to take action on climate change and erode our environmental laws a top priority. Luckily state legislatures are taking action and working to pass carbon taxes. Hopefully President Obama will encourage this progress by allowing a carbon tax in his finalized Clean Power Plan.”
The conversation comes at a time when nascent grassroots campaigns have hit their stride and have moved bills forward in their respective legislatures. “Learning from and highlighting the growing regional and national momentum is going to be really helpful as our bill moves forward in the coming legislative session,” said Solomon Goldstein-Rose, a leader in Energize Rhode Island.
Michael Green of the Climate Action Business Association (CABA) in Massachusetts lauded his fellow campaigners: “It is encouraging to see other states willing to step up to the plate and help lead on this issue.” A quarter of the Massachusetts Senate co-sponsored legislation supported by CABA and its allies to put a fee on climate pollution in this past legislative session.
“We were excited to represent Washington State in this important roundtable,” says Duncan Clauson, co-director of Carbon Washington, a ballot initiative campaign to tax carbon pollution in the state. “With the creativity and passion in the room, we are inspired and optimistic that we can put a price on carbon in Washington State and help build momentum for a national price on carbon.” Carbon Washington’s initiative campaign to implement a revenue-neutral tax on carbon would lower sales and manufacturing taxes as well as provide tax relief to 400,000 working families.
As the state campaigns get to work, they view their policy diversity as a boon to the movement. Federal campaigns to price carbon will ultimately be able to incorporate the most successful attributes of different state-level policies.
Camila Thorndike, executive director of Oregon Climate, described how “the clear solution of pricing carbon has risen to the fore.” This past legislative session, advocates in Oregon “led the charge for a comprehensive and nationally-relevant policy in the 2015 Oregon legislature, laying the groundwork for decisive action in future sessions.”
The Oregon bill could be joined by votes on bills in Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Washington, meaning that no matter what happens with federal policy, over 19 million more Americans may soon live in states with economy-wide prices on carbon.
Evan Weber, executive director of U.S. Climate Plan, added, “Economists, scientists, and advocates have long pushed for national climate legislation, but great change in this country often starts with the states and works its way up. These inspiring state efforts may be our best bet to get a nationwide price on climate pollution. And that type of policy might be our best hope to ultimately stabilize the climate.”