March 6, 2017

Mass. needs carbon pollution fees

Kate Galbo

Among the concerns of human rights and security, President Donald Trump and his Cabinet picks are doing little to continue the progress we've made for low-cost efficiency and local clean energy. After his promises to expand fossil fuel use, the opportunity for communities to innovate their economy may slip away.

Putting a price on carbon would encourage accountability on heavy polluters make the choice to invest in clean energy and low-carbon growth. Carbon pricing shifts the social costs of climate change onto polluters, leveling the playing field and changing the incentive structure underpinning our over-reliance on dirty, less efficient fuel sources.

Two bills in the Massachusetts legislature propose a statewide carbon pollution fee. Revenue from the bills can be used to support economic growth in the form of rebates, tax cuts and smart investments. HD 1504, sponsored by State Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Acton), calls for a pollution fee in which 20 percent of the revenue is invested into clean energy infrastructure, and 80 percent is returned to households and businesses. SD 1021 from Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Sudbury) returns 100 percent of the revenue to households and businesses.

Passing a carbon price on the state level would be a huge win to our state's local economy. With the majority of our energy coming from natural gas, a carbon price would diversify our energy portfolio. Additionally, because Massachusetts imports all of our natural gas, money spent on natural gas is money sent out of state. Pricing carbon would reduce the amount of money sent out of state, returning it to the public where it can be recycled within the local economy, bringing jobs, investment and innovation to Massachusetts. Because the carbon pollution fee starts low and increases over years, businesses have time to plan low-carbon solutions.

Carbon pricing is already becoming deeply embedded into business strategy. A growing number of companies are using the adoption of dynamic carbon prices in order to better inform the financial benefits and risks of investing in new projects. Businesses understand their future stock price value faces risk due to the effects of carbon pollution, whether they have a large carbon footprint or not. Adoption of internal carbon prices by the private sector is a trend that represents not only the maturation of companies when it comes to addressing their carbon footprint but also the wide belief among business leaders that carbon will be priced. This trend will grow as businesses increasingly respond to the growing investor sentiment that carbon pollution poses significant financial risk.

Carbon pricing is a practical solution to spurs the transition to a low-carbon, innovation economy. In a time when political progress on the national stage seems to be moving in retrograde, advocate for a carbon pollution fee at the state level to show your companies' true values.

Kate Galbo is programs manager for the Massachusetts advocacy group Climate Action Business Association.


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