Carbon fee will help climate accord work

To the editor:

There is both fanfare and harsh criticism over the outcome of the COP 21 UN Climate Conference. Both are justified. The goal of reaching 2 degrees Celsius definitely falls short of what is called for. That this is not a legally binding agreement when the stakes couldn't be higher is frightening. However, if we view this agreement as a place to launch an already formed movement that is gaining momentum, it's easier to deal with the generalized vexation we might feel.

Finally, after a protracted battle through a campaign of misinformation, the notion that climate change and global warming is a hoax has been put to rest. Another hurdle has been the notion that it wouldn't do any good for the US to establish policies that limit carbon emissions when other countries are not doing so. That argument has now bitten the dust, since 192 countries have put their names on the COP 21 agreement.

But we still have a huge problem. As most of us recognize, we have a rather dysfunctional Congress, with Republicans being very oppositional and reactionary. We might wish it to be otherwise, but right now that is the Congress we have to deal with.


There have been some recent proposals representatives have put forward which involve a carbon tax. However, many in Congress, especially Republicans, see this as an expansion of government, which they oppose. How do we get around this? One way would be to create a carbon fee rather than a tax. Similar, but better and a plan the Republicans can get behind.

James Hansen, the leading climate scientist in this country, is behind this idea and describes it as a fee people pay when they fill up their cars or fly on a plane. The higher cost will motivate individuals to conserve, and drive companies away from fossil fuels and toward investment in cleaner forms of energy.

Where it differs from a tax is that the funds from this fee would be redistributed back to US citizens equally, not go to the government. Those individuals that conserve their use of fossil fuels would make out better financially than those who consume more. The fee puts money back into Main Street pockets (a rather refreshing idea) and encourages investment in clean energy without expanding government.

There is a group that is promoting this idea of a carbon fee called Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL). I do believe that protests in the streets bring awareness and pressure on our representatives. But our need to move quickly to address this climate crisis needs multiple strategies and CCL offers one well thought out plan of action.

Catherine McCabe, Great Barrington