Faces of the Campaign: Meet Michael Riley Place

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Michael Riley Place

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 70 organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Michael Riley Price is a student fellow working on the campaign. Here’s his story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Michael Riley Place and I am a graduating senior at St. John’s High School in DC. I am an Our Climate Fellow working on the campaign as part of the steering committee. 

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

When I was 13, my family moved to New Zealand. Although I have been passionate about the environment my entire life and had learned about climate change, the implications a changing climate has on our Earth never really struck me until I was standing in a ravine carved out by the Fox Glacier. While the glacier still exists, century old images showed it to be significantly larger, stretching through the entire ravine. I realized then, that in only one hundred years, a relative blink of an eye, human society changed the world so much.

Besides the melting of glaciers, there has been intense melting of the ice caps, bleaching of coral reefs, and desertification of rain forests, all because of climate change. The government of New Zealand has always been a leader on environmental issues, recently ratifying the Paris climate agreement and banning offshore drilling. I have come to realize that while the United States has endangered ecosystems just like New Zealand, it has not taken the same action to ensure these places are preserved.

Why does the campaign to put a price on carbon in DC and rebate the revenue matter to you?

The tricky thing about climate change is that no matter where someone lives, their carbon footprint affects the entire world community. As climate change is the product of billions of people emitting carbon in their daily lives, a few individual decisions to bike to work or switch light bulbs is not going to make a significant difference. Entire communities must come together to move towards sustainability, by ensuring that people pay for their pollution. I believe that putting a price on carbon would not only discourage carbon pollution in the district and allow Washingtonians to reduce climate change as a united community, but by being passed in the nation’s capital it would set a national precedent for more cities to follow. Also, the rebate would ensure that communities unable to pay for the increased heating and transportation costs are not stifled by them financially.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

This is the first campaign, environmental or otherwise, that I have played a role in. I love the positive energy of the people involved with the campaign. Although everyone has been working for a long time to ensure that climate change is addressed, and lately it seems our government is taking a step back in environmental progress, everyone still has hope. Hope that if we keep working towards a sustainable future, we will get there.

The steering committee is also made up of a very diverse group, with members hailing from government, businesses, faith-organizations, nonprofits, or grassroots backgrounds. I have learned a lot about the different perspectives that go into forming a successful campaign.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

The effects of climate change are so numerous and far-reaching that it plagues various communities differently. The United States has been experiencing increasingly hotter temperatures and irregular weather patterns. While many of us have the power to manipulate temperatures using air conditioning, there are many Americans who cannot afford this luxury, and billions around the globe who do not have access to it, these people are forced to deal with these rising temperatures. Irregular weather patterns are not only an inconvenience, those who lie in the path of storms face complete devastation. Additionally, many species are adapted to certain climate patterns, causing them to experience the changes intensely.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

My favorite moment was participating in the lobby day in March. This was my first experience lobbying and I found it extraordinary to see elected officials speak directly with their constituents about the changes they want to see in their community. Council members Robert White and Stephen Grosso showed their support for the policy and this was really cool.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

I witness community power every meeting of the steering community. The diversity of groups represented in the committee is amazing. Student groups, clean power businesses, environmental networking groups, a youth run political action committee, faith organizations, grassroots community groups, and even the Citizens Climate Lobby come together to plan the next steps. This ensures the policy is addressed from all angles. Furthermore, volunteers from the campaign have promoted the policy everywhere from ANC meetings to church events, bringing news of the policy directly to the community. This collaboration was apparent during the youth lobby day, where many people turned out for meetings with representatives and a rally in front of the Wilson Building. It was extraordinary to see so many different people united around one vision.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

There have been so many great moments of this campaign, and with the introduction of the bill just around the corner, I know the best moments are yet to come. One of my biggest personal accomplishments of the campaign was writing a speech about why “the bill is late” and delivering the speech at the rally preceding the youth lobby day. As a high school student, it is my generation that will witness the worst parts of climate change, yet we lack the vote and attention of policy makers, I feel as if this is lost on our government. It was extraordinary to give my perspective and then meet with the policy makers directly, giving me hope that in time our leaders will come to realize the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.

One word summing up your experience with this campaign:

Optimistic

If you could tame a wild animal to do your bidding, what would it be?

A Parrot. This parrot would be fluent in several languages and help me to translate, it would spy on people, deliver food to my house, and be able to have deep and philosophical conversations.

Our greatest tool: Why we need a carbon price to meet the Paris Agreement

Our greatest tool: Why we need a carbon price to meet the Paris Agreement

By Courtney Dyson

In economist’s James K. Boyce’s mind, we are currently facing a tragedy of the commons on the global scale. We have reaped the benefits of fossil fuels over the past centuries without paying for the consequences. The greatest being global warming.

What is Boyce’s solution to this dilemma?

A carbon price. In a recent study called Carbon Pricing: Effectiveness and Equity, Boyce makes the case for a carbon cap-and-dividend. A system which would assign property rights to the “limited capacity of the atmosphere to absorb CO2” and develop a sense of “co-ownership of the gifts of nature”.

The study, published in April by the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts Amherst, states numerous times that any carbon pricing mechanisms must be driven by emission targets, the capping of emissions, in order to drive them down, and for any prospect of meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement – keeping global warming below 1.5 – 2 ℃.

However, there are several things to keep in mind in order to ensure that such a policy is both effective and fair.

What should the price be?

Global carbon pricing mechanisms today cover about 20% of fossil fuel emissions. However, they were found to be falling short of their goals due to the prices being too low. Incredibly, after taking into consideration the subsidizing of fossil fuels, the average net carbon price in the world today is minus $8.

This is partly due to that three-fourths of global carbon prices are set below $10 per metric ton of CO2. These prices are well below the recommended level. According to a study (Nordhaus), cited by Boyce, the price required to stay below 2.5 °C warming starts at roughly $230 per metric ton of CO2 in 2020, increasing over time.

This makes the DC price of $20 per metric ton with increases of $10 per ton every year with a cap at $150 in 2032 seem modest. However, our carbon price will be occurring in conjunction with improvements in energy efficiency and an increased renewable energy portfolio. These simultaneous actions assist in bringing down the necessary carbon price.

How do you ensure it is fair?

One concern of increasing pricing to the necessary level to invoke timely change is the impact that will trickle down to ratepayers. This effect was referred to in the study as the “cost pass-through”. Boyce states that this pass-through is “a predictable and desirable feature of carbon pricing” because it signals users to reduce their carbon footprints. The lower your footprint, the less you pay.

Yet, it is important to have complementary mechanisms in place to ensure that ratepayers are not stuck footing the bulk of the bill, instead leaving it to fossil fuel companies – the polluters. Boyce states that this can be achieved by:

substantial share of the carbon rent is rebated to the public as equal per-person dividends, the net impact of the carbon pricing policy turns progressive.

This method and theory will, hopefully soon be put into practice through the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of D.C. The proposed policy would reinvest a large portion of the revenue raised back to D.C. residents, with portions also allocated into energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and tax cuts for small businesses.

What makes the rebate fair?

It is important that a carbon fee-and-rebate takes into account that every household does not have the same carbon footprint. This is a factor which must be adjusted for when establishing the rebate mechanism. Simply put – those who consume more pay more, and those who consume less pay less. Sound familiar?

One of the best mechanisms we have to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement is carbon pricing. Methods like those studied by Boyce and put into practice by legislation such as the Climate and Community Reinvestment Act of D.C. are tools which are effective in reducing carbon emissions quickly, encouraging innovation and new technologies, and most importantly, done in a manner that is just.

Read the full study below:

Boyce-Ecol-Econ-2018

 

Courtney Dyson is a Communications Fellow at Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Image at top by Flickr user Hsing Wei, Crowded, 2009.

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Barbara Briggs

Faces of the Campaign: Meet Barbara Briggs

Faces of the Campaign is an ongoing series featuring our key organizers and stakeholders involved in “Put A Price On It, D.C.” Our coalition of 70 organizations is comprised of racial justice activists, union workers, health advocates, moms, dads, kids, retirees, and business-owners alike. Barbara Briggs is a volunteer for the campaign. Here’s her story.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Barbara Briggs. After over 20 years running campaigns focused on international labor rights (child labor and sweatshop abuses in factories making clothing and consumer goods for the U.S. market) I am in the process of a professional shift, to work on climate issues. I am supposedly “taking a break” for the first time in my adult life, but busier than ever working on efforts to transition our society away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.

What woke you up to the climate crisis?

I’ve always cared deeply about the environment, but the issue of climate change took on screaming urgency for me after I moved to Pittsburgh late in 2008. Western PA was in the middle of a huge resurgence of gas and oil extraction made possible by fracking. I started meeting people who could no longer use the water in their wells, whose kids were sick, whose livestock was dying.

I went to an opening of Josh Fox’s documentary Gaslands, really not knowing what to expect, and 2,000 people showed up! Many weekends we would go to a family place in the Allegheny National Forest and the destruction was horrible: bulldozed roads and gas pads all over the forest, silted streams, the smell of gas everywhere. It really drove home the damage that the fossil fuel industry is doing, on the ground in communities and natural areas all over the country, and contributing to global warming.

Why does the campaign to put a price on carbon in DC and rebate the revenue matter to you?

The campaign to put a price on carbon in DC is winnable, concrete and would allow us to make a substantive contribution toward moving our society away from fossil fuels. Something we must do and quickly, to prevent catastrophic climate disruption.

We are already losing species at a record rate. What we do now can save species, ecosystems, arable land, and communities that will otherwise be lost to sea-level rise. Economists tell us that pricing carbon is the most efficient way to accelerate the urgently needed transition away from fossil fuels and many business leaders agree. Meanwhile, using a substantial proportion of the funds to provide a rebate to citizens will help assure that this does not turn into a regressive tax that (once again) leaves low income and working families bearing the cost of change.

How is this campaign different from other environmental campaigns you’ve experienced in the past?

The Put a Price On It campaign is unique in that it is very concrete, local and winnable, yet would have significant environmental and economic impacts. We are pushing for real change, in a major U.S. city that also just happens to be the nation’s capital.

How has climate change impacted your own community?

I grew up in New England and my family is still there, mostly in Massachusetts. Winter is not normal or predictable anymore. It is warm when it should be consistently cold. Then in April this year we got hit with four major storms. The spring bulbs don’t know what to do. The trees don’t know what to do either. Fruit blossoms become frozen and collecting maple sap for syrup is impossible some springs. There’s more and more tree loss, due to stress and weird weather. Tree diseases, and human diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease, are becoming much more prevalent–moving up from the south and without good, hard freezes to kill them off.

What was your favorite moment in this campaign?

My favorite moment? I think that would have to be jumping into the Potomac River in January. Finally succeeding in cleaning up the spreadsheet to organize our outreach to the neighborhood ANCs–that would be a close second, but it took longer.

Tell me about a time you’ve witnessed community power.

I think we are witnessing growing community power right now, in the Put a Price On It campaign. We–a growing number of volunteers and coalition members–are raising public debate about climate change and taking responsibility into our own hands, right here in our own city. We are taking that discussion to every ward, every neighborhood, every local elected official. It’s too broad to see all at once. Often the specific events seem small. But taken all together, it is a remarkable display of growing community power.

What was your biggest accomplishment on this campaign?

I think my biggest accomplishment to date would have to be the climate event I organized at Friends Meeting of Washington to build support for the Put a Price on It campaign. The room was full. The panel, including Camila Thorndike, was really powerful. The discussion was really energized: People didn’t want to stop. And we ended up getting a lot of volunteers.

Best place to get breakfast in DC?

Best place in DC to get breakfast?: Definitely The Diner on 18th Street, open 24-7. I’ve had my bacon and eggs and coffee there at the crack of dawn, before heading to CCAN’s Polar plunge, and late at night after long ANC meetings.

Chairman Mendelson’s Recently-Introduced Renewable Portfolio Expansion Bill May Serve to Distract from the Carbon Pricing Campaign

Chairman Mendelson’s Recently-Introduced Renewable Portfolio Expansion Bill May Serve to Distract from the Carbon Pricing Campaign

RPS bill just a starting point for strong climate action; Bill for a strong and equitable carbon fee policy expected to be introduced on June 5.

WASHINGTON, DC — This week, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced a bill to expand D.C.’s renewable energy requirement to 100% by 2050. The bill expands on an existing Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 50% of electricity in the District to be sourced by renewable energy by 2032.

In response, the 70-member “Put A Price On It D.C.” coalition delivered a letter expressing disappointment that Chairman Mendelson failed to consult leading environmental advocates in the District. The coalition has been urging the Council to introduce a more ambitious and timely carbon “fee-and-rebate” policy, which would put a fee on fossil fuel energy and re-invest the revenue into the D.C. community with rebates to residents and strategic investments in clean energy solutions.

The letter states in part:

Unfortunately, because [the RPS bill] only looks to action in 2033 and beyond, your proposed RPS bill will not put DC on track to meet our 2032 targets. Due to the time-urgent nature of climate disruption, immediate measures to conserve and clean up our energy use are orders of magnitude more valuable than delayed action. Your bill also does not address climate pollution related to inefficiency, transportation, or other fossil-fuel based sources in DC, including gas and home heating oil. […]

We stand united in our call for a fair, meaningful and steadily rising carbon fee, rebate, and investment solution that will equitably achieve DC’s greenhouse gas emissions goals. As you know, we are ready to negotiate on the specifics of carbon pricing legislation. And as you know from conversations with advocates over the past two weeks, the 100% clean energy goal can readily be achieved in coordination with the carbon pricing approach already under development.

The coalition calls on Chairman Mendelson to enter “a direct conversation” as a next step in melding the RPS bill with the carbon pricing proposal.

Camila Thorndike, Carbon Pricing Director at CCAN Action Fund, further stated in response:

That Chairman Phil Mendelson has proposed an expansion of the renewable energy standard to 100% by 2050 should be applauded, but it should not distract from the urgent need to implement a stronger climate policy right now.

This RPS bill needs to be seen in the context of DC’s existing policy framework and the long-standing priorities of advocates and subject matter experts in the area. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s “Sustainable D.C.” plan includes the urgent goal to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2032. However, D.C. is not on track to meet its goals by 2032, and this bill does nothing to close the gap — it would not go into effect until 2033. This could create a delay in the city’s efforts to address the urgent challenge of climate change. Further, the renewable portfolio expansion bill does not include anything to protect D.C. residents in the transition to clean energy.

A carbon fee-and-rebate policy provides an equitable solution to the climate crisis, and it would work to drive the decarbonization that Chairperson Mendelson and Councilmember Cheh clearly seek—but only if the DC Council passes it first.

After three years of intense scrutiny, climate and economic experts have determined that a carbon fee-and-rebate policy would be the strongest and most comprehensive approach to addressing climate change in the District in an equitable manner. The renewable portfolio expansion bill, if it is enacted separately from a comprehensive carbon pricing approach, is only a small part of the package and may at this point only serve as a distraction to equitably meeting DC’s targets.

We look forward to working with the D.C. Council on the carbon fee bill with our strong coalition when it is introduced on June 5, as Councilmember Mary Cheh has proposed.

The “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition is comprised of more than 70 climate and justice advocacy organizations, including more than a dozen local businesses.

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CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Camila Thorndike, Carbon Pricing Director, camila@chesapeakeclimate.org, 541-951-2619

We have a (draft) bill.

We have a (draft) bill.

*NOTE: This is a draft bill from the Put a Price On It DC coalition – the final bill released by the DC Council may differ as it is revised and edited.

Big, exciting news from the #PriceItDC coalition!

After years of organizing and deliberating, the coalition has put together a draft of a bill that would place a fee on carbon pollution and rebate the revenue to DC residents. MANY  thanks to the several policy experts, researchers, coalition partners and legislative drafting volunteers who have worked relentlessly to bring the coalition’s vision into reality.

See the bill in full below — click through to see it all!

DC carbon fee_2018_draft

 

For the visually minded among you, check out this cool graphic showing how the policy would work:

 

 

April 13, 12:30pm: Students to rally at DC Council as time runs out for carbon bill

April 13, 12:30pm: Students to rally at DC Council as time runs out for carbon bill

Students and Teachers join Climate Advocates to Rally for Strong, Progressive Carbon Rebate Policy as D.C. Council Introduction Date Nears

Carbon fee-and-rebate policy proposed to be introduced June 5; advocates rally for a policy that is equitable and fair

Washington, DC — Dozens of students, teachers, and climate and justice advocates will join together for a rally on April 13 at 12:30pm to urge the D.C. Council to introduce a strong, progressive carbon fee-and-rebate policy. On the steps of the Wilson Building, middle school students and teachers will be joined by members of the “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition, which consists of 70 local organizations and businesses, to speak out in favor of the proposed policy. They will be surrounded by giant clocks noting that “time is running out” for strong climate action. At least 25 students from D.C. middle schools and universities are expected to attend, with three middle schoolers as speakers.

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) has indicated that she will introduce the bill on June 5. The proposed carbon fee-and-rebate policy would place a fee on carbon pollution in the District and rebate a majority of revenue raised back to D.C. residents. The speakers will call on D.C. Councilmembers to ensure that the bill includes a progressive rebate to benefit all D.C. residents, especially the poor, when it is introduced.

WHAT: Climate Day of Action: DC Youth Rally for a Carbon Price
WHERE: Front steps of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC)
WHEN: Friday, April 13, 12:30pm
SPEAKERS:
– Three D.C. middle school students
– Payal Shah, Moms Clean Air Force
– Riley Place, Generation E PAC
– Kymone Freeman, founder of We Act Radio
-Camila Thorndike, CCAN Action Fund

Advocates for the proposed policy say the campaign has new momentum this spring. In autumn, Mary Cheh, head of the Committee on Transportation & the Environment, told a crowd of Ward 3 Democrats that the proposed carbon fee-and-rebate policy is a “fabulous concept” that will “have to have Council support and the mayor’s support – and [it] will.” The coalition expects a bill to be introduced early this summer with the majority support of the Council.

The “Put A Price On It, D.C.” coalition is comprised of 70 climate and justice advocacy organizations, including more than a dozen local businesses.

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 608-620-8819
Camila Thorndike, Carbon Pricing Director, camila@chesapeakeclimate.org, 541-951-2619.

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The blossoms have arrived and D.C. council members are late

The blossoms have arrived and D.C. council members are late

Spring has arrived
Cherry blossoms flower as one
D.C. moves forward

Calling all Washingtonians!

Spring has arrived, yet we are still waiting on our carbon price and all the opportunity it will bring towards protecting our health and climate.

In spirit of the cherry blossoms we are asking you to use your creative energies and submit a haiku on why we need a carbon fee-and-rebate policy in D.C.!

We cannot wait any longer: we want to see the bill pass this year!

Please submit your haiku entry by Friday, April 6. The author of the winning haiku will receive a prize from a local DC business. We’ll present the winning haiku during our Climate Day of Action on April 13!

Submit your haiku here! 

#PriceItDC at the DOEE Budget Hearing

#PriceItDC at the DOEE Budget Hearing

Committee on Transportation and the Environment

On Tuesday, CCAN Carbon Pricing Campaign Director Camila Thorndike represented nearly 70 organizations when speaking to the D.C. Council about the necessity of a carbon price at the DOEE Budget Oversight Hearing.

Mayor Bowser and the D.C. council plan for D.C. to be carbon neutral by 2050. Camila reminded the council that “the least expensive fuel will win”, emphasizing how important a carbon price is as we move away from fossil fuels. DC needs substantive policy interjections if we want to have any hope of reaching our carbon neutral goal.

WATCH the amazing Camila give her testimony — or, read a script below.

 


Thank you to Committee Chair Cheh for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing. My name is Camila Thorndike, and I am here representing nearly 70 organizations and thousands of voters behind the growing campaign to Put a Price on It D.C. We are proud to work with your office, with Director Wells, and the rest of the Council to advance comprehensive climate policy.

First, we applaud Director Wells and the Bowser administration for setting ambitious goals.

Last year, Mayor Bowser told the world “We’re Still In” the Paris Climate Accord. The Sustainable DC Plan establishes commitments for the District to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2006 levels by 2032 and 80% by 2050, which the Administration again affirmed as a member of the C40 cities.

At the North American Climate Summit last December, Mayor Bowser pushed expectations even higher by pledging to make the District carbon-neutral by 2050. She said: “we will not let federal inaction hinder our progress.”

We are now over a year into Trump’s presidency. States and cities that have declared themselves leaders in the resistance now need to deliver results. So, what has been achieved so far?

The 2017 Sustainable DC Progress Report cites a 24% reduction from 2006 emission levels. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of this progress can be attributed not to local leadership, but to fuel switching at the grid level.

According to the PSC, the share of electricity provided by natural gas grew by 62 percent from 2013 to 2016. This was driven by the economics of cheap natural gas, demonstrating the power of a simple price signal: the least expensive fuel will win. (Indeed, we need look no farther to understand why carbon pricing is the most effective of climate policies.)

Unfortunately, even D.C.’s methane-driven emission reduction claims should be viewed with skepticism. In February, Environmental Defense Fund reported that emissions of natural gas, or methane — which is upwards of 86 times stronger a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — are dramatically higher than official state accounts. In Pennsylvania, which is within the PJM grid that powers D.C., wasted gas causes “the same near-term climate pollution as 11 coal-fired power plants.”

Even if the accounting behind D.C.’s climate progress were trustworthy, it is highly unlikely that the rapid decline in emissions will continue without substantive new policy interjections.

So, in what kind of policy should D.C. taxpayers and voters place their trust for a livable future?

First, let us acknowledge that managing the entire energy transition through agency programs is an overwhelming and unreasonable demand. What is needed is a fundamental shift. The fastest way to catalyze a comprehensive, cost-effective and lasting transition to a carbon-free D.C. is a strong and equitable price on carbon.

Councilmembers and Director Wells: providing genuine climate leadership to the nation is a tough job. The market should be working for you, not against you.

With an economy-wide fee on carbon pollution, DOEE’s existing work will be supercharged. Just imagine: when the true cost of fossil fuels is appropriately accounted for, lines will form around the block for programs like Solar for All!

And while there is much to like in the DOEE budget, I want to end with a note on equity, because we are concerned about the budget’s $90,000 cut to Environmental Justice.

Any change in energy policy and programs has a price effect. In other words, nearly every single choice you make redistributes income. In the era of the radical GOP tax overhaul and significant budget surplus in D.C., there is no excuse not to ensure equitable outcomes in climate and energy policy.

This means increasing funding for Environmental Justice. It means supporting not only a carbon fee, but a carbon rebate — especially for families being punished in the current economy.

The Carbon Fee-and-Rebate creates a sustainable long-term strategy for reducing CO2 emissions, because citizens are highly likely to support a policy that will help them cope with higher energy prices during the economy’s transition to clean, renewable energy.

We are running out of time to stabilize our climate. 2017 gave us a world where truly extreme weather events appear to be the new normal – wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, a “bomb cyclone” snow storm, and 82 degree days in February.

Putting a price on every ton of carbon pollution is one of the most effective ways to equitably reduce pollution and increase prosperity. The Carbon Fee-and-Rebate would ensure we are “backing up our DC values with action,” as Mayor Bowser pledged in Chicago.

We look forward to working with you to ensure this bedrock policy is finally put into place.

How to Solve the District’s Air Quality Problem

How to Solve the District’s Air Quality Problem

By Molly Rauch

D.C. Carbon Fee and Rebate is the answer we’ve been looking for.

Right now, the D.C. City Council is considering introducing a price on carbon that would significantly drive down carbon dioxide emissions in our city — while giving revenue directly back to District residents. As a groundbreaking local response to the threat of climate change, the carbon fee and rebate policy would benefit D.C. families.

Climate change is personal, it is a major threat to my children’s health and future. It will bring more intense and frequent heat waves to our city which already suffers from oppressive and humid summers, and where, as in many cities, heat is disproportionately dangerous for the poorest communities. Additionally, extreme weather events will increase in frequency and we could see more ticks and mosquitoes which carry diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus – even possibly bringing malaria back to the region. Climate change also threatens our air, it is likely to trigger deterioration in air quality over time.

Poor air quality is not something I take lightly. As someone who has been prescribed a rescue inhaler to control my respiratory problems, I know how bad air days can affect my breathing. Sometimes it feels like a sunburn inside my lungs. Air pollution is especially dangerous for children, whose lungs are still developing into adulthood. Breathing polluted air interferes with normal lung development, increases the risk of asthma in children, and triggers asthma attacks. Here in D.C., 12% of all children have asthma, higher than the national average. If you walk into any school nurse’s office in the district you will see evidence of this epidemic – dozens upon dozens of inhalers bundled with their asthma plans.They are stacked, hung, or filed for the children who need them in case of an attack.

D.C. suffers from poor air quality due to ground level ozone, smog. The American Lung Association has given the District an F for persistent smog problems. Smog is formed when chemicals in the atmosphere react with heat and sunlight. The chemicals which undergo this reaction are known as “ozone precursors” and include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), methane, and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In D.C., ozone precursors come from our region’s infamous vehicle traffic, as well as pollution from power plants, factories, and other industrial facilities that is blown in from nearby states.

The thing about smog, is that heat and sunlight speed up the chemical reaction which creates it. As temperatures rise, smog levels also tend to rise. Climate change and the resulting increase in temperature is likely to increase smog levels in cities across the country, including our district.This will increase the asthma burden in our city, directly harming our children and families.

This is why the carbon fee and rebate policy is important for the health of our community. The policy would charge major polluters like PepcoExelon and Washington Gas for their carbon emissions. The overwhelming majority of the revenue would be returned to District residents. ​The carbon fee would apply to natural gas and oil consumed in the city as well as carbon-intensive electricity and emissions linked to transportation — exempting public transportation. Companies that buy and sell fossil fuels in our city would pay a steadily rising fee on each ton of heat-trapping pollution they cause. Returning that fee to residents through a rebate would ensure that ratepayers break even or come out ahead. Low-income families would receive a boosted rebate to help compensate for the damages of pollution they already suffer from and to alleviate poverty.

The carbon fee and rebate would result in improved air quality over time. Greenhouse gas emissions from the use of electricity, natural gas, and home-heating fuel would fall 23% relative to a business-as-usual baseline by 2032. Those co-pollutants released alongside carbon dioxide – smog precursors, NOx, and particle pollution among them – would also decline, immediately improving our local air. Moreover, D.C.’s policy could become the basis for other cities, counties, and states across the country to pass similar policies of their own. Widespread action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not only improve air quality, but it will also mitigate global warming.

With no voting representation in Congress, D.C. has little obvious influence on the Hill. This doesn’t mean our city can’t lead the rest of the country by implementing climate solutions at the local level which protect our health and alleviate poverty. Our city can show true leadership in the climate movement and serve as an example to cities across the country by implementing a carbon fee and rebate policy. Moms in D.C. and beyond understand this is the right path for our children’s health and future.


Molly Rauch is public health policy director for Moms Clean Air Force. She lives with her family in Washington, DC, where she serves on the District of Columbia’s Commission on Climate Change and Resiliency.

Coalition sends letter urging DC Council to support an equitable carbon rebate policy

Coalition sends letter urging DC Council to support an equitable carbon rebate policy

Representatives from 32 diverse DC-based organizations recently sent a letter to the DC Council regarding the proposed carbon fee-and-rebate policy. The letter urges Councilmembers to introduce a thoughtful and equitable carbon fee-and-rebate policy that address climate change and help all DC communities.

“Investments and rebates for our community must be at the center of what our proposal accomplishes,” the letter states. “Returning revenue to residents as both investments and carbon rebates ensures a fair approach reflective of the District’s values.”

Several Councilmembers, including Councilmember Mary Cheh, have already affirmed their support for a carbon price. In this letter, the signers emphasizes the importance rebating the money raised back to DC households to ensure that the policy does not harm poor communities, but can instead address the injustices that climate change poses to DC’s most vulnerable populations.

DC will likely be the first place in the country to pass a carbon fee and rebate policy. As such, other cities will inevitably look to DC as an example when deliberating similar legislation in the future. We must include a sizable rebate in order to promote justice and to serve as a model for future cities and states across the country.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the letter, or read below:

Carbon Rebate Sign On Letter-2