Energy & Environment

Coalition plan seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035

Camille Fine

A coalition of former government officials and business leaders on Thursday rolled out what they are calling a “middle of the road” climate plan that seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035 by putting a price on carbon.

The plan from the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), which was founded by high-ranking officials alongside a number of corporations, including the oil and gas sector, would return the funds raised by a carbon tax to consumers.

“It is the best and most effective way to encourage technological innovation and to spur long-term, large-scale investments that over time will significantly lower emissions,” former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen said in a call with reporters.

Under the plan, each ton of carbon emitted into the environment would be taxed $40, a fee that would increase $5 each year. The creators believe that would help cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2035.

While the fee is expected to increase costs to consumers, the money would be returned to them through a dividend, an equal sum for all Americans paid by the Treasury Department on a quarterly basis. The creators estimate a family of four would receive about $2,000 each.

“Seventy percent of American households, and particularly the most vulnerable, will gain under this plan,” Yellen said.

Curt Morgan, president of Vistra Energy, which relies heavily on coal and natural gas, said he thinks the plan could get the backing of the larger business community because the carbon tax would apply to all businesses, rather than focusing on emissions from any particular sector.

“The overwhelming preponderance of companies like Vistra want to compete on [a] level playing field,” he said.

The plan, which was developed by former Secretary of State James Baker and noted economist George Schultz, does not yet have a congressional sponsor, but the group hopes to secure sponsors from both side of the aisle later this year.

The CLC fee would not cap carbon emissions; however, carbon pricing has traditionally faced steep resistance in Congress, particularly when those fees are accompanied by limits on carbon.

Earlier this year House Republicans opposed a plan from Democrats on the basis of a clean energy fee.

“If you’ve got to have a credit and you’ve got to have auctions, then that feels a lot like cap and trade,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the ranking member of the committee, said when the plan was first outlined in January. 

The CLC plan does seek to address another frequent complaint from Republicans: the risk that other countries could harbor polluting industries.  

The plan imposes a border tax on any “carbon-intensive imports” to ensure carbon-emitting industries don’t migrate to countries with weaker environmental regimes. 

Tags Carbon tax Climate change Climate change policy Greg Walden Janet Yellen Vistra Energy

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