By Fraser Perkins —
This month we’ll look at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a major nonprofit which has become a central player in the struggle to pass climate legislation and raise awareness of climate issues.
Marshall Saunders began his volunteer life in 1994 as an advocate for poverty and hunger alleviation. An early architect of microlending as a vehicle for lifting people out of grinding poverty, in 2006 he realized that any gains in reducing destitution could be wiped out by Climate Change. His insight was crystalized after viewing Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” He felt a grass roots effort was needed to effect change. His vision resonated and led to the formation of CCL; today CCL has close to 200,000 members scattered into 560 chapters. Saunders believed that to effect change, individuals must be the agents of change – everyday citizens banding together to solve difficult but crucial challenges. Sadly, Saunders died in 2019.
CCL advocates a carbon tax and dividend plan. Carbon would be taxed, but all collected funds would be returned to households as a monthly dividend. Everyone would be free to adjust their behavior to reduce their carbon footprint, yet still qualify for the dividend. Administration of a carbon tax/dividend plan would be much simpler than a cap-and-trade program. It is estimated that two thirds of households would receive more than they pay. A small administrative fee (roughly 3%) would be retained to manage the program, but crucially no funds would be siphoned off to support other spending programs.
The initial fee would be $15 per ton of CO2. A gallon of gas produces #20 of CO2. If your car gets 25MPG, then the fee amounts to .6 cent per mile. Given the recent spike in gas prices such a fee would hardly be noticed, yet it also points at how resistant Americans are to changing driving habits in the face of historically high gas prices. A critical part of CCL’s program is that the carbon fee would be raised by $10 – $15 per ton per year depending on total emissions. What starts out as a mosquito bite would morph quickly into a nasty spider bite. And this is the point – people have the capacity to change, and while most will tolerate an occasional mosquito bite, most will pay attention to eight legged creatures – either spiders or worse, scorpions. The resulting political backlash would be severe – many would clamor for relief from an overbearing government, or in the words of Republicans, the “nanny” state. It will require principled politicians backed by an army of citizens to stand firm against political pressure. Despite predictable opposition from Republicans, the CCL is studiously nonpartisan, working both sides of the aisle to push forward climate legislation. Many economists and business leaders are on board with the CCL, but as the Republican Party has spiraled into the rabbit hole of Trumpism, it listens less to its rational, conservative, business friendly wing.
Canada has successfully implemented a carbon fee/rebate program. Provinces either implemented their own program or defaulted to the Canadian federal program which stood at C$30 per ton in 2020, increased by C$10/ton till 2020 and will reach C$170/ton by 2030. The program rebates 90% of the fees it collects. The same fee of C$170/ton applied to an auto getting 25MPG and incorporating current exchange rates would be 5 American cents per mile.
The CCL Educational Program is a Qualified Charitable Distribution. Contributions to its Lobbying Program are not tax deductible. I urge you to visit the CCL website at www.citizensclimatelobby.org and join!