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Pricing carbon: California’s unfinished climate priority

by | Jan 10, 2017

Michael Wara and I have a new essay at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the need for new climate legislation to price carbon in California. A recent bill, SB 32, set a deep climate mitigation target for 2030, but left unresolved the question of how to reach this goal because the bill’s backers lacked supermajority support that is necessary to impose carbon pricing policies under the state’s infamous restrictions on raising new revenues.

In addition to describing the lay of the land, Michael and I offer our thoughts on how state policymakers can assemble a broader coalition. In our view the key to political success—and in turn, effective carbon prices—lies in prioritizing social justice concerns:

Making sure the climate transition benefits low-income neighborhoods and communities of color isn’t just the right way to pursue climate policy. In California, where policies to price carbon require a two-thirds vote before becoming law, it may turn out to be the only way.

As difficult as the two-thirds voting requirement seems, the California legislature has a remarkable opportunity to lead on climate policy in 2017. Its success would offer a much-needed model for others follow in the years to come, both in shifting to a market-oriented strategy for deep mitigation targets and in demonstrating a new political coalition to support robust climate policy. Here’s hoping California will once again step up to the plate when new ideas are needed most.

Read the full post on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website.

photo credit: Marcus Dall Col