Conn College signs carbon tax endorsement letter
New London — Connecticut College has joined with 21 other colleges in calling on elected officials to “put a price on carbon” as a means of combating climate change.
Conn President Katherine Bergeron last week signed the letter on behalf of the college that endorses the carbon tax initiative, part of a grass-roots Put a Price On It campaign led by the nonprofit group Our Climate and the National Geographic Channel climate change series “Years of Living Dangerously.” The creators of the show, Joel Bach and David Gelber, spoke at Conn on April 6 as a petition calling for the college to sign the carbon tax endorsement letter was circulating. Five hundred Conn students, faculty, staff and members of the community signed the petition, which was presented to Bergeron.
“Connecticut College has a long history of environmental stewardship,” Bergeron said Friday in an email message. “Sustainability is a prominent goal in our new strategic plan ... We are committed to policies and practices that protect precious resources. The Put a Price on It initiative is directly in line with this philosophy, and I was pleased to join a select group of college and university presidents in endorsing this initiative on behalf of the Connecticut College community.”
Other signatories thus far include: Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Smith, Vassar, Barnard, Wellesley and Emerson colleges.
Tom Erb, national field organization for the Put a Price on It campaign at Our Climate, said that the goal is to have 25 colleges sign the letter by the end of April, and 500 by the end of 2018. The 25 original signatories, he said, will comprise a leadership circle that will guide the movement forward.
The overall purpose, he said, is to build a movement of young adults to push for a carbon tax, a market-based mechanism that would levy a tax on companies that extract or import fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide. The tax would offset the public health and environmental impacts of carbon emissions and provide create a financial incentive to develop renewable energy sources.
Erb said the Put a Price on It campaign also is looking for states, cities and towns to sign the endorsement letter. Ultimately, the letters would be presented to Congress and state-level officials to demonstrate constituent support for a carbon tax.
Jane Dawson, professor of government and environmental studies at Conn and director of the college’s Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, said the colleges are being asked to take part in the campaign because of their student populations.
“Young people are the generation that are going to be impacted by climate change, so they have to act,” she said. “We need to do whatever we can to push this forward, because we don’t have time to dither at this point.”
By joining the Put a Price On It campaign, Conn is recognizing its responsibility to take action to protect the environment on its campus, but also in the larger world, said Margaret Bounds, assistant director of sustainability at the college.
“This is a way for us to demonstrate our interest not just in sustainability on campus, but also on a national level,” she said. “We really need action at the national level.”
Seniors Jillian Ouellette and Moriah McKenna led the petition and presented it to Bergeron, along with an explanation of how the carbon tax would work.
A carbon tax, Ouellette said, is a direct means of encouraging reductions in carbon emissions that has shown success in other countries and won support from across the political spectrum.
“It’s one of the most concrete actions we can take on the wide-ranging issue of climate change,” she said. The tax, she said, recognizes the costs of carbon emissions on human health and the environment “that are already a burden to people.”
She added that the "Put a Price On It" movement demonstrates widespread support for science.
"As a community, it is important to make it clear that we believe and support the scientific community," she said. "We state with the scientific consensus that climate change is the threat of our generation."
As leaders of higher education institutions, we call upon our elected representatives to act collectively on behalf of current and future generations by putting a price on carbon. We work to prepare our students for thriving futures, over which climate change casts a dark shadow of uncertainty. Putting a price on carbon pollution is an indispensable step we can take to effectively combat climate change.
Carbon pricing creates an economy-wide incentive to reduce greenhouse gases in economically efficient ways that can, if revenues are used wisely, benefit low-income households while stimulating job growth. The World Bank has endorsed carbon pricing as a way to accurately account for the external costs of emissions, like crop loss, flood damage, and medical treatments that result from heat waves and other climate change disasters. Thousands of businesses support carbon pricing for its transparent and predictable approach.
Dozens of countries and jurisdictions across the world have already enacted carbon pricing mechanisms, and the evidence is in: carbon pricing enables renewable energy to flourish, helps phase out polluting energy sources, and lowers emissions. A strong carbon price will rise quickly enough to work without burdening low-income and middle-class families, and won’t create new dependencies on profits from carbon-based energy.
It is time for the United States to lead on this defining issue of our time, and protect the health and well-being of current and future generations. By making carbon-intensive industries pay a fair share of the costs of their pollution, we will have cleaner air and healthier communities, and prevent the most devastating effects of climate change. We therefore ask our elected officials to proactively work to enact a carbon price on the state and national level.