Bob Allen: Endorsing a price on carbon pollution

Editor's note: This commentary is by Bob Allen, the president of Green Mountain College.

[S]everal months ago President Trump made the ill-conceived decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. In doing so, the president argued that he was protecting the American economy. In reality, his actions will keep our economy stuck in the polluting energy system of the past. We all know the future must be different. As the leader of an institution committed to environmental, social and economic justice, I have the good fortune of seeing a brighter tomorrow come alive in the ideas and actions of my students. For these students no challenge, including climate change, is too great. That’s why I said yes when students asked me to sign a letter endorsing a price on carbon pollution. Last week many of these same students turned out to make the same request of Vermont’s governor

Following the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement, I was pleased to see that Gov. Phil Scott stepped up and signified his intent to honor the goals of the agreement. One of his first executive actions after making this declaration was to form the Climate Action Commission. The stated goal of the commission is to develop solutions that reduce our climate polluting emissions while strengthening our economy and ensuring every Vermonter is included in the clean energy transition. The commission came to Bennington County last week for a public listening session and many students from Green Mountain College were there offering their own ideas. Thanks to these same students, I have my own recommendation.

My recommendation is a simple market-based solution that is already reducing carbon emissions in 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces around the world. It’s a solution that is already partially implemented in Vermont and eight other states through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has reduced emissions from power plants, invested in efficiency, and improved public health. It is of course not the only solution, but it’s one that has the opportunity to make an impact in Vermont and serve as a model for other states looking to do their part to tackle the climate crisis. That solution is a price on carbon pollution.

In the absence of leadership from Washington, D.C., it’s time once again for Vermont to step up. Carbon pricing represents a great opportunity for the governor and the Legislature to develop a bipartisan approach to one of today’s most pressing challenges: pricing pollution to fund the solutions.

I’m proud to endorse carbon pricing as an opportunity for Vermont to move beyond the dirty energy systems of the past. The governor and the Vermont Legislature should put forward a carbon pricing policy that meets the commission’s goal of strengthening our economy and including every Vermonter. An equitable solution that protects the most vulnerable in society is the best way forward. This will require creative thinking and compromise but that is the essence of good leadership. If our elected leaders need help in that regard, they need look no further than the students of Green Mountain College.

I am proud that so many of our students are speaking out – with passion, creativity, and optimism. They are urging Gov. Scott and the Legislature to take bold action and so am I.

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