June 20, 2018

Carbon Tax Proposal Promoted by Leading Conservatives Good Starting Point

Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2018)—A campaign announced today to support a federal carbon tax of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide, escalating over time—a proposal backed by top conservative and other economic experts, along with a group of businesses including four major fossil fuel companies. The new campaign, Americans for Carbon Dividends, promotes the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan and is co-chaired by former Sens. John Breaux and Trent Lott. This carbon tax proposal was first announced in February 2017 by conservative opinion leaders and economic experts, including George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Paulson, Lawrence Summers, and Gregory Mankiw.

Today’s campaign launch is notable in that it includes several conservative thought leaders, major businesses, and former Federal Reserve chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen; and it has received endorsement from two environmental groups.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We’re encouraged to see conservative thought leaders and economic experts, together with major companies, voice support for a meaningful price on carbon and acknowledge the urgent need to cut emissions in line with the goals of the Paris agreement. The proposal has merit and is a useful starting point for bipartisan legislation to address climate change.

“Reaching across the partisan divide to arrive at an agreement on a carbon price will no doubt require all sides to be willing to negotiate. We look forward to helping the strongest possible version of this type of proposal succeed. Other complementary policies will be needed as well. For example, as the proponents of this policy acknowledge, a carbon price has limited effectiveness in some sectors, such as transportation.

“We do have serious concerns about some provisions in the proposal that seem to signal that public health-based pollution standards, as well as municipalities’ rights to be compensated for costs they incur to address climate change, may be traded away for a carbon tax. Taking away legal rights and rolling back public health safeguards are clearly not in the American public’s interest.

“Meanwhile, fossil fuel company executives who have endorsed this proposal should demonstrate good faith by stopping their corporate funding and support of trade groups that are working to block climate action.

“We look forward to working with others to arrive at a just and effective climate policy. Even as the Trump administration seeks to roll back policies that address climate change and prop up uneconomic coal-fired power plants, this proposal shows there are leaders across the political spectrum eager and ready to address this issue and force Congress to act in the interests of all Americans."

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.