The Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of DC will contribute to a Universal Basic Income

The Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of DC will contribute to a Universal Basic Income

The idea that pollution should be taxed isn’t new. But returning the money to the people impacted—in other words, everyone—is a little more novel.

That’s what our proposal would do. We think polluters should pay. Not only will this penalty drive polluters towards cleaner solutions—it’ll help the rest of us deal with the impacts of climate change.

Three-quarters of the revenue from our carbon tax would be returned directly to residents in the form of a quarterly check. It’s particularly important to us that all residents share in the money raised by this tax.

In that way, our work overlaps with the movement for a universal basic income (UBI). What is a UBI, and what does it have to do with the carbon tax? Sarah Glazer explains in a recent article published in CQ Researcher.

A bipartisan idea

UBI has a long history, endorsed by everyone from 19th-century land-tax advocate Henry George to The Wire writer David Simon. Notably, the idea of a universal basic income has supporters on both sides.

Liberals like it because they think everyone should have a basic, decent standard of living—a floor which a UBI can secure. Conservatives like that the cash transfer doesn’t expand the government as much as a welfare program, and gives recipients the freedom to choose how to spend their receipts.

There are important differences in these motivations and their implications for the conception and implementation of a UBI. But interest has been strong enough for politicians to test the idea; experiments in UBI are currently underway in Utrecht, Netherlands; Nairobi, Kenya; and Ontario, Canada.

But one of the best pieces of evidence for the rebate we will offer has a longer history, and is closer to home. The Alaska Permanent Fund sends a check to Alaskans every year. (As you can imagine, it’s very popular.) Their checks, like ours, will be paid for by fossil fuel revenue.

Our proposal goes a step further. It makes polluters pay for the costs they’ve offloaded onto the rest of us—costs like asthma from air pollution, water damage from flooding, and even, as time goes on, possible impacts like higher food prices or lower economic productivity.     

What it means to our campaign

The rebate is not a universal basic income, but a partial basic income. The money involved is substantial—enough to change people’s lives, if not enough to live on. A typical DC family can expect $500 in first year of our proposal—enough to pay for food for a month, a movie ticket a week, or (almost) a bus trip a day.

Moreover, we’ve made the choice to send more money to low-income residents and households. While not a feature of all UBI programs, this is in keeping with three key principles of our coalition: the poor have:

  1. Borne the brunt of pollution to date
  2. Will bear the brunt of climate impacts
  3. Are least resourced to deal with both 1) and 2).

It’s also a practical consideration: poorer households must pay a greater share of their income towards energy bills. The higher rebates should shield them if energy companies pass those costs on.

We are excited for the chance to give back to people. Some of the revenue from our proposal will go to green infrastructure investments and local businesses . But the rebate is at the heart of our proposal—it’s democratic, it’s equitable, and it will help people.

That’s what this is all about, right?

 

  • Hayden Higgins, DC Divest

On Yom Kippur, care for the earth

On Yom Kippur, care for the earth

Written by Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb

Medieval Jewish mystics taught that God created the world through self-contraction, or tzimtzum. God was everywhere – but by shrinking God’s self a bit, everything else could emerge. God humbled Godself.

We should follow suit. In our congregation, tomorrow’s Yom Kippur message will be just that: “humble yourself.”

Humility is a personal virtue, just as “Moses was most humble” (Num. 12:3). Modern leaders should try humility too! People of faith should prize humility, rather than swagger, when deciding whom to support.

We can cultivate humility, collectively: Being proud of our religion, but not believing it alone has all the answers. Being proud of our country, yet humbly considering its flaws and mis-directions.

In today’s warming world, we’re now also called to be humble as a species. To try to make space for the rest of life, many faithful folks have become environmental advocates. That’s why I’m speaking up for this fall’s DC campaign to put a price on carbon.

In synagogue tomorrow, we’ll sing, “Humble yourself in sight of Creation.” Humility is just what humanity needs, if we’re to dodge the worst of the ecological catastrophes we now bring upon ourselves. Exhibits H through M: Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Maria.

Hubris, the exact opposite of humility, is the downfall of every tragic hero – or civilization. The hubris of recent generations brought us to the brink of irrevocable climate change. Hubris lets “enlightened” folk today consume and pollute way more than our fair or sustainable share. And hubris has us wait for big techno-fixes, or for others to act first, before making the changes we know must come.

Some of those needed changes are “sacrifices.” Though we’re loathe to give anything up, humility calls us to sacrifice. Yes: true humility demands sacrifice. But it’s worth it: sacrifice comes from sacred, in Hebrew (korban-offering from karov-draw-near) as in Latin. Sacrifice is holy! It’s also a fair exchange: we give up something finite, receiving in its place something lofty and sacred. And, it’s our duty.

We should sacrifice, or “give back,” what isn’t rightly or sustainably ours. Consider the idea of “privilege.” I’m a man, socialized to take up space; the humble faithful way to “man up” is to “sacrifice” some status, so women can lead. As a white man, aware of the myriad disadvantages from which I’m exempt thanks to skin tone alone, I extend myself for racial justice, even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable. Ditto for being straight, able-bodied, well-off, or cis-gender.

But I’m also a human – who, together with you and seven billion others, plants a most oversized footprint on our threatened blue marble home. So it’s time to consider “species privilege,” too.

Humans got ahead by claiming what rightly belonged to others – not just indigenous peoples, but the whole “order of Creation,” comprising millions of species besides our one. We squeezed them out in the process. To restore balance, we must do teshuvah (deep repentance) – make real change – by “sacrificing” some of what we wrongly consider “ours.”

Every Yom Kippur that goes by without major tzimtzum (self-contraction) by us humans puts poor people, all God’s critters, and our very future at greater risk.

Economist Paul Krugman simplifies the math: climate change will lower gross global product by at least 5 percent. Stopping climate damage, by contrast, would cost only 2 percent. Two percent, so we don’t destroy the biosphere – is that even a sacrifice, or a wise investment? Waiting only locks in more suffering, and harms our progeny. It’s smart to act now: “Choose life,” pronto, “that you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19). The longer we fiddle, the hotter the future burns.

Luckily, little sacrifice is needed to get behind the #PriceItDC effort to use the free market to curb carbon pollution. Like sister initiatives elsewhere, #PriceItDC makes industrial polluters pay to emit what harms us, then rebates the money back to residents in just ways. It’s our chance here in DC to model how our future economy can work, once we’re all practicing proper species humility.

It brings the “externalities” of fossil fuels – like, say, reduced life expectancy for your grandkids – into the economic equation. It gives polluters monetary incentives to pollute less. It helps us become more rational economic actors, and more moral and spiritual in the process.

Please join me and my community this fall in practicing tzimtzum, the sacred lost art of humble self-contraction. Together we can make teshuvah, repentance and return to right action, not just a Yom Kippur thing, but part of our everyday lives.

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb lives in Washington DC, where he is a DCPS Parent, past chair of Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA), and Rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.

Reflecting on a Summer of Organizing for a Carbon Price in DC

Reflecting on a Summer of Organizing for a Carbon Price in DC

Written By Danniele Fulmer, former summer intern for CCAN’s Price It D.C. campaign and current Executive Assistant

What happens when you put four young college students and recent graduates together for a summer of organizing? You get a dynamic and versatile team of advocates with a strong pool of talents and interests, ranging from English to Environmental Policy, Economics, and Social Justice Organizing.

I got to experience this phenomenon firsthand with Andrew, Maria, and Olivia, during my summer as one of the four interns working on the D.C. Put A Price On It campaign.

On a personal note, I moved to D.C. after spending a year in Vermont at graduate school and had very little experience in the city. Working on this campaign exposed me to a completely new side of D.C., outside of the traditional tourist attractions and historical monuments. I got to experience the authentic flavor of the District’s booming neighborhoods, many of which I had never heard of or visited before. It feels nearly impossible to dive into the details of everything we accomplished this summer, but I think it’s worth covering some of the most prominent highlights!

Our summer working on Put A Price On It D.C. kickstarted with a visit to the John Wilson Building to do a “lit drop” of a Washington Post editorial that came out in support of carbon pricing as a climate solution.  This is where you go door to door to each councilmember’s office to drop off “literature” and talk about the campaign with the legislators’ staffers — or even the councilmembers themselves, if you catch them at the right time. It provided a wonderful opportunity for us to meet some of the staffers and councilmembers face to face while pitching the campaign!

From that point, myself and the three other interns, Andrew, Maria, and Olivia took to the streets to educate residents about the policy by canvassing across the District. We talked to residents from across the city, including everyone from native Washingtonians to students attending university in D.C.  Canvassing can be hard work at times, but I have to admit that some of the most memorable moments from the summer were from the time I spent talking to D.C. residents. I engaged in some of the most authentic and candid conversations with residents about climate change, justice, and the quirks of the city.

The tedious work of petitioning in the above average heat this summer was made more than worth it by the supportive words and thank-yous we received from residents. By the end of the summer, through visiting neighborhoods, metro stops, and attending events across the city, the four of us  collected over 800 petitions from D.C. residents!

Later in the summer, we gained practical advocacy experience by attending a public hearing with Councilmember Mary Cheh. I had the great pleasure of preparing and offering testimony at the hearing in support of the campaign, a first for me. It allowed me to apply my past education in communications and advocacy in a practical real world environment.

Overall, I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish over the past few months as interns on the D.C. campaign. Further, I’m excited to see where our futures take us. Something tells me that the four of us will cross paths in the future. It’s just the nature of this work! Successful advocates know that building lasting relationships is the key to powerful campaigns and coalitions. I hope that we’ll all be able to contribute to each other’s work in the future in one capacity or another. At the very least, we will all be able to look back on our summer as interns for the Price It D.C. campaign and reflect on the key advocacy and organizing skills we developed… And cheer with gusto when The Climate and Community Reinvestment Act is passed by the D.C. Council!

The Pursuit of Climate and Social Justice Through Carbon Pricing

The Pursuit of Climate and Social Justice Through Carbon Pricing

Written By Danniele Fulmer, former summer intern for CCAN’s Price It D.C. campaign and current Executive Assistant

What is environmental justice? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Unfortunately, the pursuit of environmental and social justice has been an uphill battle. Harmful environmental practices have taken place disproportionately in low-income communities of color for years — even decades — putting these communities on the front lines of pollution and climate change.

A prime example of this is gentrification of cities, which tailors to the tastes of the upper middle class and pushes low-income residents to the curb. Income inequality between the rich and poor looms as another related and potent issue. In the landmark report “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States,” it was found that race was the predicting factor for waste siting more frequently than income. To add another layer of complication, climate change threatens to exacerbate these issues of injustice.

This particularly concerning in the District of Columbia, one of the most clearly segregated cities in the United States, as highlighted by the Washington Post in 2015. Further, according to a report released by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, income inequality in the District ranks fourth among the fifty largest cities in the United States. To break it down further, the richest 5 percent of Washingtonians make roughly fifty nine times what the poorest 20 percent make. Perhaps more relevant to this discussion, the study also found that D.C.’s lowest-income residents are primarily people of color.

It may come as no surprise that environmental and economic policies have the potential to become regressive, impacting lower income communities disproportionately. Developing policies that take justice issues into consideration is more important than ever. With this in mind, it is critical that the environmental policies that we pursue within the District serve all residents, regardless of race and socioeconomic status.

Luckily, the Healthy Community and Climate Reinvestment Act of D.C. plans to do just that by placing a fee on carbon emissions and rebating 75 percent of the collected revenue back to residents. At its core, this legislation is an effort to curb carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change. However, the fee and rebate model being employed has the potential to correct some other critical injustices occurring in the District as well. In particular, low income residents would see a rebate of about four dollars to every one dollar that they pay through the carbon fee, taking a step toward leveling the playing field between the highest and lowest income residents in D.C.

At the end of the day, climate change is the single issue that unites us all. Put A Price On It D.C.’s progressive approach to address climate change has a unique social justice flavor that is critical in today’s fight for a healthy climate and community.

The Science Behind a Carbon Fee & Rebate: It’s About Justice

The Science Behind a Carbon Fee & Rebate: It’s About Justice

Written by interns Danniele Fulmer, Maria Zlotescu, and Olivia Kuykendall 

At the heart of any campaign that combats climate change, there should be a dedication to justice and equity. The proposed D.C. carbon fee and rebate policy is a wonderful example of this dedication to a cleaner, more equitable future. Backed by economists, environmentalists, and social justice activists, this policy can help all the District’s residents, especially the most vulnerable.

And now, two new economic studies show how and why the rebate portion of this policy is essential to addressing justice.

It has long been established that carbon and rebate fee models can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change. Carbon pricing has also been embraced as the most effective solution by economists. In the 2015 report, “Expert Consensus on the Economics of Climate Change,” a survey found that 75% of economists agree that market-based mechanisms, such as a carbon tax, are the best way to address climate change.

Now, two new studies demonstrate that carbon fee and rebate policies can have economic benefits while also addressing justice. In particular, these studies, conducted by Boston College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that fee and rebate models can lead to a substantial decrease in income inequality. The studies both bear well on our efforts to put a price on carbon in D.C. through a fee and rebate model.

The first study, titled “Income Inequality and Carbon Emissions in the US: A State-Level Analysis,” found that there is a direct correlation between the concentration of wealth and carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, the higher the income equality in any given state, the likelier it is for the state to have higher carbon dioxide emissions, as is demonstrated by the tables below.  


Additionally, the Boston College study notes that a carbon tax without a built in rebate could harm low-income communities. But with a rebate, this type of policy has the potential to benefit a larger portion of an area’s population. The study found that if a $200 tax per ton of carbon were adopted without a rebate, the bottom quintile of households would suffer 10.2% income loss. However, with a built-in rebate, the bottom quintile would see a 14.8% gain in income.

Luckily, the D.C. carbon fee and rebate policy plans to do just that, by rebating 75% of carbon revenue back to D.C. residents, with other portions reserved for renewable energy projects and local business property tax assistance.

The second study, “A Distributional Analysis of a Carbon Tax and Dividend in the United States,” published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, compared carbon fee and rebate programs with other climate solutions such as cap and trade and tax breaks. The basic finding was that cap and trade, as well as tax breaks, could benefit higher income individuals disproportionately, leading to regressive impacts on lower and middle-income individuals. Furthermore, regressive tax measures have a tendency to reduce spending in regions, resulting in a decrease in economic activity. However, the researchers yet found that carbon fee and rebate policies have the potential to empower citizens through income gains, resulting in an increase in purchasing power and higher economic activity. More specifically, the study showed that distributing equal rebates can protect the purchasing power of 61% of individuals, 89% of which fall under the lowest income category.  This goes to show that utilizing a carbon fee and rebate model is truly the most equitable way to address climate change.

By looking at the proposed D.C. carbon fee and rebate policy against this backdrop, we can see that one of the most critical elements of the policy is the rebate mechanism, which prevents regressive outcomes.

When considered together, both of these economic studies support the idea that a carbon fee and rebate policy is the most efficient and just mechanism to address climate change, which is great news for the D.C. carbon fee and rebate campaign!

We have environmental and economic experts on our side. Now we must build our movement to get this policy passed in the District.

This campaign has been in the works for two years now and there is no doubt that the overwhelming body of support from economic, environmental, and social justice standpoints will continue growing from here. Over 20 cities and states are currently either voting on or following a carbon fee and rebate plan. Environmental experts already support carbon fees as a way to reduce CO2 emissions. Politicians from both sides of the aisle also endorse the idea. The carbon fee and rebate bill would not only be environmentally effective, but economically beneficial as well. According to leading environmentalists, in order to prevent irreversible damage to the environment, the U.S. must eliminate carbon pollution entirely by the end of the century. The carbon fee and rebate policy will go a long way to meeting that goal.

Article Citations:

  1. Fremstad, A. and Paul, M.. “A Distributional Analysis of a Carbon Tax and Dividend in the United States.” Working Paper Series, Political Economy Research Institute (2017).
  2. Jorgenson, A, et. al. “Income Inequality and Carbon Emissions in the US: A State-Level Analysis.” Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 40-48.
Landmark Study Finds Carbon Fee-And-Rebate Policy Would Boost D.C. Businesses, Families, and Economy

Landmark Study Finds Carbon Fee-And-Rebate Policy Would Boost D.C. Businesses, Families, and Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, July 27, a new draft study detailed how a carbon fee-and-rebate policy would benefit the local economy of Washington, DC. According to the study’s findings, the policy — being proposed by the “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition — can effectively reduce carbon emissions in the District while maintaining economic growth and job creation, and putting more money in the pockets of DC residents.

The independent analysis, titled “Assessing Economic Impacts of a Carbon Fee & Dividend for DC,” was carried out by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) and shared at an event hosted by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI). The draft study found that the policy would result in a steady boost in jobs — particularly in the construction sector — and stable economic growth, while reducing planet-warming carbon emissions 23 percent by 2032 for electricity, natural gas, and home-heating oil consumed in the District. Transportation emissions also fall under this examined policy.

Roger Horowitz, Co-Founder of Pleasant Pops, stated: “With the carbon fee-and-rebate policy, DC has the opportunity to become a national leader on climate action in a way that is equitable and just — and good for our business. Putting a price on global warming pollution and rebating the revenue to families will keep our business going and improve the health of our community.”

“Zenful Bites is proud to be part of the ‘Put a Price on It D.C.’ coalition. This policy will expand our customer base and make our city a healthier, safer place to live. We’re happy to help move this campaign forward for a more sustainable economy,” said Josephine Chu, Co-Founder of Zenful Bites.

The study modeled the indirect and induced changes that occur throughout all sectors of the DC economy as businesses, households and the government respond – not only to the fee itself, but also to the newfound money available from the return of that fee every month. The analysis projects that, by 2032, the policy would generate a rebate of $170 per month for the average family of four and $294 per month for a low-income family of four. This gradually rising rebate would increase residents’ support, thereby increasing the policy’s durability.

“We support this because it would spur companies like ours to dramatically increase their investments in clean energy, while leaving more money in the pockets of DC residents to reinvest in local businesses, restaurants and services,” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy.

The proposed policy would redirect a portion of the revenue raised as tax relief to small businesses. This will total $30 million per year by 2032, thus enhancing the ability of local businesses to remain competitive in the region and to maintain a permanent and robust presence in the city.

“The numbers clearly show that a carbon fee-and-rebate policy is not only the best option to reduce D.C. carbon emissions, but also a sound mechanism for growing a robust economy powered by clean energy,” said Mishal Thadani, Co-Founder of District Solar. “This policy is simple, fair for every stakeholder, and will ultimately attract many new and innovative companies to the District.”

Fighting for the Future with Moms Clean Air Force

Fighting for the Future with Moms Clean Air Force

Written by Olivia Kuykendall and Maria Zlotescu

What is one thing every child deserves? The chance to grow up in a world free from worries of climate change.

On July 14, Moms Clean Air Force held its annual “Play-In For Climate Action” in Washington D.C. to fight for that chance. Dozens of eager climate activists filled the Upper Senate Park to advocate for a cleaner future. Attendees came from as far Texas to listen to speakers discuss the fate of our planet.

The event featured speakers of all ages to highlight that our climate is an issue that that will affect the present and future generations. Moms Clean Air Force offered plenty of activities to engage families. Children played with parachutes and bubble machines while families attempted yoga and dozens of other activities. The events made the rally not only a political event but a community one bringing together strangers united by a common cause.

Parents at the rally were not all fearful of their children’s future — they were hopeful. Hopeful that their children could one day have healthier water and cleaner air.

The experience made me hopeful, too. Many listened to our Put A Price On It campaign testimonies and were interested in getting involved. Plenty thanked me for my time, expressing the importance of advocacy in the fight for cleaner air. One attendee even expressed the importance of the involvement of young people in the climate action movement.

While young people are important, today’s parents are raising the next generation of voters. Children who see their parents involved in activism are more likely to follow. The children who attended the event today are the environmental leaders of tomorrow.

During the event, I also had the opportunity to sign up for “Dear Tomorrow” — a project where people share letters, photos and videos to their children, family or future self about their promise to take action on climate change. I’m going to write a letter to my little nephews. I want them to be able to visit the Potomac River like I did as a kid.

As we left the event, many rally-goers went to meet with their senators or representatives. I am confident that their meetings went well because I saw their passion and dedication with my own eyes. It gave me energy.

As Moms Clean Air Force fights on the national level, let us remember our local fight. Break out the signs, petitions, and phones. Let’s put a price on carbon pollution in DC. Not just for us. For the kids.

Photos courtesy of Moms Clean Air Force.

Stop scrolling. Start meeting real people.

Stop scrolling. Start meeting real people.

Can you remember the moment you decided to really fight for climate action? It probably wasn’t a Facebook post or a cynical tweet. More likely you had startling conversation, formed a new relationship, or discovered a new community and a way to get involved.

Real social change requires face-to-face interactions. That’s why we need you to help us reach out to our communities this summer and build a powerful base to support our campaign to put a price on carbon pollution once and for all.

In her new book, “Twitter and Tear Gas,” writer and social scientist Zeynep Tufekci reminds us of life before social media. Mobilizations like the March on Washington once grew out of years of painstaking recruiting, training, and coordination. Paradoxically, it was the very difficulty of face-to-face organizing that forged leaders and decision-making structures strong enough to weather storms of the opposition.  

Today we are faced with the intense challenge of transitioning to a clean and efficient energy economy before we fry ourselves alive. The speed of online communication suits the urgency of climate change. However, the strength of the fossil fuel empire demands an unprecedented depth of commitment and relationships among us. That means smiles, high-fives, and conversations with – gasp! – eye contact. (Which is what we all really want, right?)

To win a solution so powerfully scalable as a carbon fee and rebate in Washington, D.C., our movement must be made of a living web of trusting relationships that can flex, focus, and keep growing through the ups and downs of this ambitious campaign. That’s why the 30+ organizations in our coalition have spent the past two years getting to know one another. Now we want to know every neighborhood in our city.

Mark your calendars for a community outreach event in YOUR neighborhood. Read on for the schedule and details!

Find the community outreach event in your neighborhood:

Why be part of the action? Allow me to testify: there’s nothing quite so fulfilling to offer other concerned people a chance to really DO something about the climate crisis. It’s weighing on all of our hearts and minds, and by getting out there to recruit new people to the campaign, you’re doing them a favor of empowerment.

So let’s hit the streets this summer!


 

PS: Sierra Club will be hosting a volunteer training on Monday, July 10. You’ll get all your questions answered, and receive top-notch training on how to win the support of DC council members, ANCs, Civic and Citizen Associations, businesses, and your neighbors at the farmers market. We want to be sure you’re fully trained and ready for these opportunities to build an unstoppable power base for climate action in DC. Click HERE to RSVP!

 

Schedule of Community Events

Schedule of Community Events

Join us this summer as an ambassador for climate action in D.C.! Sign up for a community outreach event in YOUR neighborhood. There will be tons of opportunities for community outreach — read on for the schedule and details!

Find the community outreach event in your neighborhood: