Column: We Need a Carbon Pollution Fee to Combat Climate Change

This essay was co-authored by Melrose resident Gabrielle Watson and State Senator Jason Lewis.

We all want to give our children a good life and to leave the world a little better than we found it. But, increasingly, scientists are telling us that climate change will fundamentally alter the natural systems we all rely upon. It is tempting to turn away from such scary news stories, but we can’t ignore reality. We have to act.

In the face of inaction on the part of the federal government, it is up to states and local communities to step up to the challenge. Massachusetts has prioritized a cleaner, more sustainable energy future since the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008. This landmark legislation made our state one of the first in the nation to seriously tackle climate change. We have set ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, invested in developing renewable energy sources like solar and offshore wind, begun planning for climate adaptation, and are pursuing many other initiatives at the state and local levels.

But given the magnitude of the challenge we face and the urgent need to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 (and preferably sooner), we must pursue even bolder policies.
We believe that Massachusetts should implement a carbon pollution fee, which is also known as carbon pricing. A carbon fee is a charge on fossil fuels, based on the amount of carbon dioxide these fuels emit when burned. With a carbon fee, the price of dirty fuels increases, creating an incentive for businesses and consumers to use less fossil fuels and move more rapidly to greener options. This approach should be something that liberals and conservatives alike can embrace since it uses market mechanisms to unleash innovation that will move us much more rapidly to a clean future.

We are proud to support House bill 2810, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions filed by State Representative Jen Benson and Senate bill 1924, An Act Combating Climate Change filed by State Senator Mike Barrett. Although these two bills take slightly different approaches, they would both require that Massachusetts implement a carbon pollution fee to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both bills would return a significant amount of the fees collected to consumers as a rebate, and would ensure that low-income residents do not face a financial burden. Funds that are not rebated would be spent on energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation like electric vehicles, and climate resilience projects in our communities.

With majority support for each bill in its respective branch of the legislature, we are hopeful that Massachusetts will pass legislation to implement a carbon pollution fee, and once again lead our nation to a sustainable future.