The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been met with understandable shock and alarm. It may be tempting to fall into despair, angrily divide blame or, worst of all, simply tune out. Push these reactions aside and act. We have both urgency and agency.

As the only state with both senators in the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, Maine is uniquely positioned to advocate for effective and equitable national climate policy. Congress is negotiating climate policy as part of the budget reconciliation package, and Maine’s senators could be pivotal in the best chance for meaningful climate legislation in over a decade.

Maine should be proud of its ambitious climate goals, but with only 0.3 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, we need national policy to address the other 99.7 percent of carbon emissions and protect Maine’s lobster industry, winter recreation and agricultural heritage from the fate of the once vibrant, now-defunct shrimp industry.

We cannot avoid climate disaster by relying only on reducing our individual carbon footprints. In fact, the same powerful forces working to sow apathy and division have been encouraging us to focus on personal behavior and distract us from climate policy that would match the daunting scale of the crisis: Make polluters pay for carbon pollution.

One approach to doing this – included in current budget framework – is a clean-energy standard that requires utilities to generate an increasing share of electricity from clean and renewable sources. That doesn’t, on the other hand, deal with carbon emissions from other major sources, including vehicles.

Carbon pricing can also address emissions. While there are many varieties of carbon pricing, Citizens Climate Lobby – an organization for which one of us volunteers – advocates a gradually increasing price on carbon, applied where the fossil fuel enters the market (coal mine, oil well, fracking site, port of entry). The revenue is returned to citizens as an equal monthly carbon dividend (“carbon cashback”), thus benefiting low- and middle-income households and addressing matters of social and climate justice.

We don’t have to look far for successful examples. Since 2008, British Columbia’s carbon pricing has reduced emissions faster than the Canadian average, while the province outpaced Canada’s average economic growth. Carbon dividends benefit most citizens and ensure popularity as the policy is now the default for Canada. A decade ago, Australia reduced its carbon emissions by 10 percent in a matter of months after instituting an emissions trading scheme (alas, it was repealed by the incoming conservative government in less than two years, and emissions immediately climbed back).

The U.S. is one of only two industrialized nations without carbon pricing (and Australia, which had it, is much further along). The pressure to join the carbon pricing world will only increase as businesses look to remain competitive in an increasingly carbon-priced world. Starting in 2023, the EU, the U.K. and perhaps Canada will impose border carbon tariffs on imports from countries without carbon pricing. The EU’s carbon tariffs have already motivated aggressive acceleration in China’s carbon pricing plans. The current U.S. budget framework includes methane pricing and border carbon adjustment fees which may force U.S. carbon pricing, as the World Trade Organization would likely rule against carbon tariffs without a domestic analog.

The alarming costs of inaction have moved the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 22 diverse Maine municipalities, Boyne Resorts (which owns Sugarloaf and Sunday River), Coastal Enterprise Institute, Maine Conservation Voters, Wolfe’s Neck Farm and hundreds more to support carbon pricing as an essential component to any successful climate strategy.

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins have recently championed modest climate legislation (BEST Act, methane regulations, Growing Climate Solutions Act) and have expressed a willingness to support carbon pricing if shown robust constituent support.

Maine’s national lawmakers have a golden opportunity to augment the legacy of past leaders like Edmund Muskie and Margaret Chase Smith and implement policy that would be good for Maine, its people and its environment.

Contact your members of Congress and tell them you support bold climate action that includes carbon pricing. There is still time to act – but no time to lose.


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