GUEST COMMENTARY: A gift for future generations

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The holidays remind me how much I love and appreciate family. This is my first year as a grandpa, and itís been a long time since Iíve been so excited to see a child open a present. My wife, Kathy, and I gave abundant thought to choosing a fun and educational gift. But our big gift, to our son, daughter-in-law, grandson, nine nephews and 13 nieces, and really people across the globe, is our New Yearís Resolution: Do something big to slow climate change.

Of course we canít do this all alone. Weíre only two of more than a hundred thousand Citizensí Climate Lobby volunteers across the United States, which includes about a thousand from Missouri. There are also other environmental organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute, and a host of others advocating for climate action. Even Exxon Mobil donated $1 million to a climate policy campaign. The list goes on, but we believe 2019 can be the year for major climate policy.

We are especially motivated because a group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives gave us a wonderful gift in November. They introduced a bill that, if enacted, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by 40 percent in 12 years and 90 percent by mid-century. These are the emission reductions we need to get on track to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, a goal we must meet so that children of today can enjoy the turn of the next century.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, (HR 7173), was sponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Francis Rooney, R-Fla., John Delaney, D-Md., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. The returning sponsors say they intend to reintroduce the bill in the 116th Congress. This is the first bipartisan climate bill in nearly a decade, which is vitally important to getting it through Congress.

The act places a fee on fossil fuels that starts low and grows over time. There is consensus among economists that a price on carbon like this is the most effective and efficient way to reduce emissions. The revenue collected generates a trust fund that pays dividends back to families, which benefits both them and the economy. Additionally, by reducing pollution in the air we breathe, it will improve health and save lives.

Effective, good for people and good for the economy, who could be against it? One of my concerns about a carbon fee and dividend has been for farmers, who are often called ďprice takers, not price makers.Ē They already have high energy and fertilizer costs and, because they sell on commodity markets, canít simply adjust their prices. This act has them covered with a farm-fuel rebate. Another provision provides fertilizer companies credit for carbon sequestration. Of course, keeping climate change in check will also benefit farmers and the rest of us who consume their products.

Some progressives and environmental groups who have worked hard on regulatory solutions to climate change are reluctant to trust a market-based solution, such as a price on carbon. But most businesses, utilities and farmers, as well as conservatives in general, would be more likely to support a bill that rolls back regulations. A regulatory adjustment provision in the bill eloquently addresses this concern. It puts on hold regulations on carbon dioxide emissions as long as emission targets are being met. If emission targets are not met after 10 years, then EPA regulatory authority of these emissions would be restored.

France introduced carbon pricing and people protested. But France didnít give the revenue back to the people. A dividend makes the policy revenue neutral, so the size of the government will not grow.

Weíre thankful the Energy Innovation Act was introduced but getting it through Congress and signed by President Trump will be a huge challenge. If you want to do something big in 2019, please visit citizensclimatelobby.org and join.

George Laur is a state coordinator for Citizensí Climate Lobby and group leader of the Columbia chapter.

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