Hawaii Delegate Shows Climate Leadership On The Hill - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Paul Bernstein

Paul Bernstein is an economist with UH Manoa and a member of Citizens' Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Noel Morin

Noel Morin is a civic leader and environmental advocate. He is with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Molly Whiteley

Molly Whiteley is a former public school teacher and administrator and a current member of Citizens' Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Climate action advocates have much to celebrate with the news that U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele has co-sponsored H.R. 2307 — the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. His sponsorship will help pave the way for the passage of carbon pricing legislation in the U.S.

This bill puts in place a gradually increasing price on carbon, a dividend that will benefit U.S. households, and a carbon border adjustment to protect local industries from lower-cost, high-carbon products imported into the U.S. from countries without a carbon price.

The gradually increasing price will provide businesses with predictability around which they can plan. At the same time, the revenue will fund dividend payments to households to mitigate the expected cost increases for high-carbon products.

The rising fee on carbon will incentivize corporations and individuals to seek out more affordable, lower-carbon options. This strategy offers the opportunity and flexibility to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and other high-carbon products in an orderly and socially just manner.

A price on carbon pollution is long overdue for the U.S. We are one of two countries with developed economies without a carbon price. (Australia is the other one.) Countries without a carbon price will face border taxes levied on high-carbon products exported into countries that price carbon.

The European Union already has announced plans to introduce a carbon border adjustment, raising concern in trading partners like Russia. The U.S. can protect its trade while contributing to meaningful climate action by introducing a carbon price.

What’s At Stake

At stake is our planet’s ability to sustain life. The climate crisis is our existential threat. We’re reminded almost daily of the peril we face if we fail to act. News of deluges, catastrophic flooding, life-threatening heat, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters from around the globe flood our airwaves.

Kaawa Punaluu Kamehameha Hwy boulders and damaged road. Climate Change
Higher tides attributable to rising sea levels erode portions of Kamehameha Highway on Oahu’s Windward Side. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

No longer do we need to listen to the dire climate predictions of scientists, for today we are unfortunately experiencing the consequences of climate change. It will worsen unless concerted, global effort is taken to cut global warming emissions. We still can leave our kids and future generations a world in which they can thrive, but we must act with seriousness and urgency.

There Is Hope

Fortunately, we are waking up. Governments and big corporations worldwide are making commitments to radically cut emissions and achieve “net zero.” The adoption of renewable energy solutions and zero-emission transportation is accelerating.

Electric utilities are increasing generation from solar and wind. Auto manufacturers have proclaimed target dates for halting the production of gas cars and are stepping up their electric vehicle offerings.

Governments have introduced market-based solutions (like a carbon price). There is hope, but we must take more aggressive and timely measures to manage global warming adequately. H.R. 2307 offers us such a measure.

Carbon Pricing Is Effective And Popular

Several economic studies (citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-pricing-studies/) show that placing a price on carbon is the most efficient method of reducing carbon emissions, and returning the revenues to households is the most progressive policy.

Notably, over 3,500 economists, former Federal Reserve chairs, prominent faith organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, and many governments support carbon pricing. Its effectiveness in changing individual and macroeconomic behavior drives the growing support for the policy.

Importantly, carbon pricing complements other emission-reduction strategies such as energy efficiency standards and the development of zero-carbon technologies.

Does It Work?

We can look to global examples to understand the effectiveness of this policy. Sweden, a country that implemented a carbon price in 1991 and has the highest rate globally, reduced its emissions by 25% by 2000 while its economy performed better than the European average. (ecofiscal.ca/2018/04/11/carbon-pricing-works-in-sweden/).

A price on carbon pollution is long overdue for the U.S.

British Columbia is another example. It introduced a carbon price of CAD 10 per ton of CO2 in 2008. By 2014, the rate was CAD 30 per ton of CO2.

At the same time, BC’s economy grew about 12% percent (better than the rest of the nation), and emissions went down about 10% (two times the national figure).

Climate Leadership In Congress

We greatly appreciate Rep. Kahele’s prioritizing climate action. His advocacy of legislation to protect our marine environment, first-hand experience with the impact of climate change on the economically disadvantaged, particularly in Hawaii and the Pacific region, and now, national climate legislation, bodes well for our efforts to manage the climate crisis.

Now is the time for serious climate action. With the growing support for carbon pricing in Congress, including Kahele’s sponsorship of H.R. 2307, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz’s introduction of the Save Our Future Act (a carbon pricing bill), and the potential for carbon pricing to be incorporated into the budget reconciliation, which Citizens’ Climate Lobby is actively campaigning our senators to include (cclusa.org/senate), the U.S. may very well implement a fee on carbon that would achieve a significant reduction in carbon emissions in an equitable, efficient, and effective way.

Therefore, for the sake of the planet and future generations, we encourage Sen. Mazie Hirono to join Sen. Schatz in support of the Save our Futures Act and Rep. Ed Case to join Rep. Kahele in supporting H.R. 2307.

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About the Authors

Paul Bernstein

Paul Bernstein is an economist with UH Manoa and a member of Citizens' Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Noel Morin

Noel Morin is a civic leader and environmental advocate. He is with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Molly Whiteley

Molly Whiteley is a former public school teacher and administrator and a current member of Citizens' Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Latest Comments (0)

In the end, it just means higher costs for consumers. The companies who are being "taxed" will funnel this right down to you and I. Then the money will go into a special account that only friends of the politicians can withdraw from.  Use of endless surveys assessments and studies will whittle away at the fund and we will never see or hear of it again. Larger scale but very much like HART/Rail bait and switch. 

uknowwho · 1 year ago

We are the world’s greatest consumers, but the greatest polluters. There are a lot of other countries, China, India that need to control their pollution of the Earth.The US citizens are doing there share and are tired of the hands of government reaching into our pockets.

Faith · 1 year ago

Carbon pricing and raising taxes are not the same.  Carbon pricing is not directed at everyone, only at corporations that produce carbon emissions, which pollute the earth's atmosphere, causing the greenhouse gas effect that leads to massive global climate change.  The objective of carbon pricing is to spur corporations to change from carbon pollution practices to zero-carbon forms of production.  Although consumers will pay more for goods (not more for taxes), a carbon fee with a dividend will absorb those increased costs.  A public trust would receive the carbon emissions fees from corporations, and those fees would be sent to every adult citizen to pay for price increases of goods and services.  The real question is:  Which would you prefer...  1) Pay trillions of dollars of damages to property, lives, and the economy which will result in rising prices of everything you need, because of steadily increased climate change disasters or 2) Receive dividends, which pay for additional costs which corporations will charge you for goods and services for as long as they cause carbon emissions?

SustainableForest22 · 1 year ago

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