For Climate Action in D.C., Look Outside Congress

For Climate Action in D.C., Look Outside Congress


The Campaign to Put A Price On Carbon: How it All Began

For most Americans, the words “D.C.” and “climate” only bring to mind Congress’ stubborn fidelity to the fossil fuel industry. Lately, national policies fly in the face of mounting catastrophe. But the city of D.C. itself has a proud record on sustainability. From renewable energy standards, to energy efficiency measures, to investment in public transportation, D.C. has a strong reputation for progressive climate action. The District has even enacted a strong goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2020!

However, actions speak louder than words, and much remains to be done before D.C. can achieve its climate goals. That’s why, in late 2015, the District’s leading environmental organizations came together around a bold vision for climate action.

The “Put a Price on It D.C.” campaign was born from the shared understanding that only a rising price on pollution can be strong enough to close the gap. So, the coalition set out to pass the first progressive carbon fee in the nation, and fulfill D.C.’s goals of inclusive prosperity in a walkable, livable, sustainable city.

How we got here

First, our founding team did its homework. We carefully studied the dozens of existing and proposed carbon pricing policies around the world, as well as the campaigns behind them.

Two ingredients stood out. One is the importance of smart policy design—holding polluters accountable in a way that progressively returns tangible benefits back to voters. The revenue generated from pricing carbon could be used to ease rising public insecurity from automation, income inequality, and their attendant racial injustices. The second key factor we discovered was careful coalition building and robust outreach. We knew we needed to educate the public and decision-makers alike about this simple, cost-effective solution.

Then, in 2016, we put our research into action. We started by working with professional facilitators to build a process for the most inclusive, transparent, and equitable climate campaign in D.C. — and perhaps the nation’s history. We then invited over 100 community organizations into the campaign. Finally, we reached out to every Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Civic/Citizen Association in the District. Now, our coalition has grown to over 23 organizations representing an incredible array of interests. The campaign is supported by social, economic, racial and environmental justice organizations; labor; neighborhood groups; and small businesses across the city. It is growing every day.

Now, we are ready to catalyze the movement in D.C. for this exciting new campaign. This bold policy would make D.C. a national leader on climate, while boosting family incomes and tackling inequality.

We plan to hit the ground running. We’ll be knocking on doors to grow our movement. We’ll be joining with businesses that want to support a progressive, equitable campaign for climate action. We’ll be calling, emailing, and visiting our councilmembers to let them know that D.C. residents won’t let the fossil fuel industry get away with poisoning our communities. We will let the world know that D.C. is ready to put a price on pollution and move to a clean energy future.

It’s time, once and for all, to put a price on carbon in D.C.

Image at the top from Flickr user Ted Eytan with a Creative Commons license.