This November people of faith, youth, businesses, activists, and environmentalists will join forces to call for a price on pollution.
This confluence of events is timed to occur after the midterm elections, as the 114th Congress prepares to set its agenda and before the annual UN climate conference in Lima, Peru, where the world will be watching the US for signs of serious commitment to combating climate change. The three days of action are also timed to fall on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which includes a weekday for business and schools, a weekend when most people have more time to engage in events, and accommodates the days of worship for the major faith groups we hope to engage.
The Pricing Carbon Initiative (PCI) will encourage communities to organize a range of locally-inspired events that convey the urgent need to address climate disruption with a price on carbon emissions. Local participants will be encouraged to be creative, open-minded and inclusive with community dialogues, symposia, conferences, coffee klatches, teach-ins, theatrical/musical performances, film showings, demonstrations, bike rides, walks, etc. PCI will offer trainings and useful tools to help promote and structure the events.
The “Price Pollution, Cut Carbon: A National Dialogue to Address Climate Change” events will not be promoted as an end unto themselves. We instead envision this as a beginning, a launch, or a venue for sparks to inspire new initiative to price carbon pollution. We see this collaboration as a vital step in building the needed bipartisan political support for legislation that prices carbon emissions.
Category of the action
Mitigation - Helping U.S. enact carbon price legislation
What actions do you propose?
- At least 100 public events around the country on the need to price carbon pollution.
- Citizens, businesses and other local institutions encouraged to collaborate on reducing GHG emissions within pricing carbon framework
- Enhanced bipartisan political support for legislation that prices carbon emissions in concert with tax reform.
- A path or structure that encourages ongoing citizen engagement and collaboration in these efforts.
- Organize a “critical mass” of community dialogues and actions on pricing carbon around the country
- Target and engage key sectors to lead this initiative: the faith community, schools and colleges, and businesses can emphasize the moral, scientific and economic imperative of pricing carbon pollution.
- Offer these sectors and others useful tools to help promote and structure their events.
- Provide a mechanism to collect, collate and disseminate the results of the community conversations to insure that the collective voices will be heard.
- Follow up on the three days of action in ways that will nurture an ongoing pricing carbon movement.
- Sufficient events and level of participation to draw front-page attention in local and national media and a strong presence on the web.
- Growing recognition that pricing carbon must be considered essential and inevitable and determination to make it politically viable with bipartisan support.
- Concrete evidence of new local efforts involving citizens, businesses and other institutions working together within a pricing carbon framework.
- Concrete progress in advancing simple, direct legislation to price carbon in the 114th Congress.
- An ongoing path/framework/structure for follow-up and ongoing engagement.
The Pricing Carbon Initiative (PCI) grew out of a three-day retreat in July 2011 in Garrison, New York where fifty leaders from a broad spectrum of national environmental, social justice and business organizations met to seek common ground on the need to price carbon emissions. Those discussions have continued with PCI serving as the coordinator of a network of roughly 100 people representing 50 advocacy groups, conservative and progressive think thanks, and other associations for off-the-record discussions about the policy and politics of pricing carbon emissions.
Over the past three years, we have convened a over a dozen half-day meetings in Washington, DC to explore how taxing CO2 emissions might be included in broader tax and fiscal reform and attract bipartisan support. Since a number of the parties involved have remained unwilling to publicly acknowledge their interest in pricing carbon, confidentiality has been an important ingredient to the success of these candid and often revealing discussions. With limited prospects in the current Congress, the more recent focus has been on opportunities that may arise in the next Congress and beyond.
Generating Public Discussion on Pricing Carbon
As useful as these behind the scenes discussions are, citizen engagement in this issue cannot be held at bay. PCI participants are now exploring ways to generate discussion on pricing carbon in the public sphere as part of a movement-building, bottom-up effort designed to help generate citizen involvement in climate change solutions. A pricing carbon approach offers a promising framework from which to motivate citizens to accept individual responsibility for both their role in our society’s excessive greenhouse gas emissions and their need to have a role in the solutions to curtail them. A significant and rising carbon price offers not only the most effective, expedient, and morally compelling way of addressing runaway climate disruption, but it is also the most empowering option for citizens wanting to help shape and implement effective solutions that can be economically equitable, business-friendly, and environmentally effective. Pricing mechanisms are also conducive to encouraging local, national, and international solutions.
Our goal is to help elevate a national discussion on pricing carbon emissions to a level where it cannot be ignored by opinion leaders, mainstream media, policy makers and citizens across a wide spectrum. As a first step, we are aiming for a critical mass of locally organized community events or actions across the country that will generate this recognition. Prime among these will be carefully crafted and facilitated community dialogues. As an outcome, we hope to create an ongoing structure/initiative where the results of the events can be collated and disseminated in a format where ideas can be shared and discussed and collective voices heard. The November events and follow-up will inform, empower and facilitate community efforts across the country and help to make a national movement for pricing carbon a reality.
Participants will organize their own events/actions across the span of the three days. Within the broad parameters of “pricing carbon emissions,” PCI will not be prescriptive about specific pricing models that “should be” promoted. The emphasis in the dialogues will be to listen to differing points of view, to make the concept of pricing carbon widely accessible, and to inspire conversations and events that are inclusive, visible, and empowering.
For maximum impact, we’re suggesting a three-day Friday/Saturday/Sunday sequence, which works especially well for the sectors we plan to organize; it includes the days of worship for most major faiths, a weekday for business and school engagement, and the weekend when more people have time to participate in events.
We’ve debated having it before or after the 2014 midterm elections. Some feel that having it during the campaign season could prod candidates to address the issue and take a stand. Others argue that having it after the election allows for more open discourse with elected officials less preoccupied with how a support for pricing carbon (likely to be called a “tax” by opponents) might impact their electability. Having the event after the elections also gives us needed time to organize and build support for large-scale participation. We’ve opted for the latter course. We’re tentatively proposing November 14th, 15th and 16th. This strategically places our action after the mid-term elections (November 4th) but before the annual U.N. climate meeting (December 1-12, in Lima), where signals that Americans support pricing carbon pollution could have a positive impact.
Four sectors stand out as sensible ones from which to organize this mobilization: schools and colleges, faith based organizations, business groups, and civic and environmental groups. The PCI already engages these groups in our network, giving us a foundation from which to start.
Schools and colleges are a good starting place. After the successful Pricing Carbon Conference in 2010 at Wesleyan University, which several of us organized and participated in, much discussion has gone into doing similar events in multiple locations. Youth need to be involved — it’s their future — as do the university-based scientists and economists we depend on to make our case so compelling.
It’s heartening to see the faith community increasingly take on climate disruption as an issue of equity and morality. The prophetic voices of faith leaders and the acts of people of conscience need to resonate in our movement. Faith is also a powerful way to reach out to concerned citizens across the political spectrum.
PCI is increasingly finding business leaders who agree, behind closed doors, that pricing carbon (internalizing negative externalities) is good for businesses and jobs. To get more public understanding and support for this concept, it will be essential to engage business leaders and associations.
Finally, notwithstanding the importance of targeting the sectors above, we also clearly need to engage a range of other civic and environmental groups in this mobilization. A successful three-day national event with a critical mass of participants requires us to encourage participation as broadly as possible.
We believe that the community dialogues will offer a unique opportunity to engage citizens, foster collective responsibilities and plant seeds that can lead to actions based on pricing carbon emissions. PCI is collaborating with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding on conceiving, planning and implementing these dialogues. Karuna has extensive international experience in fostering dialogues on important, divisive and seemingly intractable issues in communities around the world and in helping to establish a setting conducive to finding a shared purpose. As facilitators for the above-mentioned 2011 3-day retreat, which jump-started PCI, they were invaluable. They will train community facilitators at regional workshops that PCI will organize in the lead up to the November events.
As much as we’d like to emphasize the community dialogues, we’ll welcome a range of other actions such as symposia, conferences, coffee klatches, teach-ins, theatrical/musical performances, film showings, art exhibits, demonstrations, bike rides, walks, tree plantings, etc. We believe these other events will compliment the dialogues. Offering a wider choice of options will attract more participants. We’ll encourage all the events to share the major themes inherent in the community dialogues, which include process: inclusivity, open mindedness (listening to differing points of view), creativity and empowerment; shared beliefs: the moral, scientific and economic imperative of pricing carbon; and a common agenda: community, state, national, and international initiatives, government programs, and legislation, all based on the need to address climate disruption and to price carbon emissions.
Having the three-day national forum after Election Day does not preclude an impact on the elections. The publicity and organizing efforts for the November event’s build up in the weeks prior to both the elections and the PCI events can help make pricing carbon a campaign issue; the multiple simultaneous events themselves will help set the stage for the issue to be taken up in the next Congress. One way to augment both of these outcomes is a petition campaign. We’re proposing two petitions: one to the President Obama (on the White House website) and the other to Republican and Democratic House and Senate leadership (on the Pricing Carbon Initiative site). Both would ask for legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions in the 114th Congress. The White House petition would ask the President to pick up where he left off in his 2013 State of the Union statement in urging Congress to “pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change.” The petition drives would start after Labor Day, intensify around Election Day, and culminate during the three-day mobilization.
In planning what we hope is a watershed moment for the movement to price carbon, it is important that such an event does not exist in isolation. This event is but one tactic in a larger strategy to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions—with the ultimate goal of ensuring a stabilized climate. The prime objective for mass public mobilization is to set the stage for the work, which must follow. Working with a coalition of already established groups will help to ensure that no matter what, this effort does not get put to rest, but we’ve also begun to plan for more intentional means of continuity. Through the collection of signatures on petitions and working directly with local organizers we will amass a contact base from which networks can be formed. We also intent to collect and distribute the results and outcomes of the mobilization through a website (or websites) and other means.
Who will take these actions?
This will be a bottom-up, citizen-led, community-driven grassroots effort to inspire change. Actions will be taken by citizens in every state all across the country. The Pricing Carbon Initiative and the partners within our network will be the catalysts in inspiring actions and events for citizens to participate, but it will be up to community leaders to see the events through. As part of our outreach strategy, we will also be generating a petition for citizens to sign calling on leaders to introduce legislation to price carbon in the 114th Congress and calling on President Obama to work with Congress to implement a solution. If we are successful in our goals, follow-up will include actions by local, state, and national elected officials to work towards legislation to price carbon.
Where will these actions be taken?
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
What are other key benefits?
What are the proposal’s costs?
Pricing carbon will be a long battle, but the exacerbating climate crisis mandates that we begin mobilizing people now to publicly demonstrate that this is an issue the American people care about and demand action on. Our movement to price carbon complements the Obama Administration effort to regulate carbon emissions from power plants through the Clean Air Act. In the immediate future as a result of the rules there may be opportunities to implement state and regional carbon pricing regimes to comply with the EPA regulations. States—as the policy laboratories of our nation—may provide the impetus we need for federal action. If we are to reduce our emissions enough to lead the world in avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, significant efforts beyond EPA regulations are essential. Work to build political support for those efforts must begin now.
Suitable legislation in this current Congress is all but impossible; at best it will be an enormously heavy lift in the next Congress; and as much as we say that it must be a bipartisan issue, it is anything but that now. The Democrats—while generally supportive of addressing climate change issues—are hardly united behind pricing carbon; the Republican deadlock in the House will likely continue after midterm elections and Democrats may well incur losses in the Senate.
That said, we are determined to remain true to our course, with our sights on bi-/multi-partisan support to connect pricing carbon with tax reform. We will continue pursuing opportunities as we find them: this year, in the next Congress and in the 2016 elections and beyond. This is why we are mobilizing people of faith, businesses, young people, and a broad assortment of concerned citizens for three days of action this November. This is why we are engaging non-traditional allies and trying to bring new voices into the fold. This is why we are working to build a strong foundation with our PCI allies and others for the long-term work ahead.