Opinion posted by Karen Paley, CCL member, on Independence News for Independence Financial Partners on February 19th, 2015.
There are movements afoot to promote renewable energy in Rhode Island.
I know because on January 26 I slipped unnoticed out of the office on Jefferson Boulevard and drove to the State House to hear Representative Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, members of the Energize Rhode Island Coalition, and two business owners introduce a piece of legislation (LC 3475) that would put a fee on carbon emissions and return the revenues to the people of Rhode Island.
Supporters of this legislation say it will “create 1000 new jobs in the first two years, fund renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects, and provide rebates to residents to help offset increases in energy costs.
On the same day, as it turned out, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed released recommendations from the “Green Jobs RI” report, including “an extension of the State’s Renewable Energy Standard, which mandates annual increases in the use of power from solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean sources.
I point out these events because they are indicative of the kind of initiatives being taken up by communities all over the world since nearly 187 countries pledged to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted at the end of the recent Paris climate talks, "Markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low emissions and resilient growth." Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency now will support the wave of the future.
Posted by Mintaka Angell, February 25th, 2016.
What do Rhode Island and British Columbia have in common? Short answer: both have the foresight to pass legislation that protects both the environment and the economy. The only difference is that while Rhode Island has the opportunity to pass the bill in 2016, BC took the plunge eight years ago.
Luckily, that means that we can learn from BC’s example. In 2008, BC passed a fee on carbon that started at C$10 per ton and rose over four years to a modest C$30 per ton, totaling out to about an additional 7 cents per liter at the gas pump for Canadian citizens — offset by rebates and personal income tax cuts.
Eight years on, we have an excellent case study to examine the effects of such a fee on both the economy and the environment — and the results show a win-win for everyone. Environmentally, the personal consumption of fuel of BC citizens declined by 16%, while consumption in the rest of Canada rose by 3%, showing an undeniable example of how carbon fees prompt environmental stewardship. And this came not at the cost of the economy, but at its growth: BC’s GDP has outperformed the rest of Canada, with a growth of 1.75% from 2008-13, while the rest of Canada clocks in at about 1.28%. While critics may argue that its GDP may have grown even more without the fee, the results show at the very least the policy can coexist peacefully with an expanding economy. That’s not to mention the $5 billion in revenue that the tax has brought in, allowing for rebates in all sectors.
Of course, the Energize RI Act differs from BC’s carbon pricing scheme in a couple ways that will allow the Rhode Island bill to better serve Rhode Islanders. BC’s bill is revenue-neutral, meaning that the bill’s costs to citizens must be offset by cuts in other taxes. The Energize Rhode Island bill will instead put money back into the pockets of many Rhode Islanders through tax rebates, while using the rest of the funds to create a Clean Energy and Jobs fund that will build clean infrastructure to further secure Rhode Island’s economic and environmental future.
British Columbia showed the world that we don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. A carbon fee is not a zero-sum game — and Rhode Island, like BC, stands to win on all fronts.
Posted by Alberta Devor on February 10th, 2016.
In last month’s landmark agreement, international representatives at the 2015 Paris COP21 climate conference set out ambitious new environmental targets, such as reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C.
But a global agreement on targets will only get us so far: it’s up to individual communities to find solutions to meet these goals. One of the most promising strategies to reduce and offset carbon emissions is one that has been almost completely unused in the U.S. so far: carbon pricing.
Here in Rhode Island, we are working on our own local contribution to reverse the effects of climate change through carbon pricing legislation. The Energize RI: Clean Energy Investment & Carbon Pricing Act seeks to place a fee on carbon emissions and reinvest the funds generated back into the local economy through weatherization programs and direct rebates to families and businesses.
Rhode Island is not considering carbon pricing alone. In Vermont and Massachusetts, similar carbon pricing bills are currently being considered, and in the Canadian province of British Columbia carbon pricing legislation has been cutting emissions and benefitting the local economy since it was adopted in 2008. Rhode Island’s own Senator Whitehouse has also introduced a carbon pricing bill into the national senate.
Carbon pricing, which is supported by many well respected organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, appears to be turning into one of the world’s preeminent strategies in combating climate change. Adopting carbon pricing in Rhode Island would be an ideal response to the Paris agreement’s call to action.
Posted by Tim Faukner on EcoRI on January 27th, 2016.
PROVIDENCE — It may not be politically doable this year, but efforts to add a fee on all fossil fuels entering the state is getting attention.
For the second consecutive year, carbon-tax legislation was introduced in the General Assembly. This time, freshman Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, took the lead as the bill’s sponsor.
Flanked by five fellow state representatives, two business owners and an economist at a recent Statehouse press event, Regunberg said climate change is happening and costing the state money. Last year was the hottest on record for the planet and unseasonable weather, such as the 68-degree temperature on Christmas Day, is becoming more common.
“Here in the Ocean State, where so many of our people and businesses are located along the shore, we stand to lose a great deal from increased sea-level rise, more severe flooding and extreme weather evens,” Regunberg said.
A carbon tax is an ambitious approach to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and boosting the state’s renewable-energy sector. But its one that is generally opposed by business groups, which consider the idea of adding fees on all fossil fuels an unreasonable cost of doing business.
The bill, like other carbon-fee proposals, uses the tax to fund renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. A portion of the fee is also paid out as a dividend to residents and businesses.
A Clean Energy and Jobs Fund would be funded through a $15 fee on each ton of greenhouse gas emitted by fossil fuels sold in the state. A coalition of environmental groups, businesses and religious institutions, calledEnergize Rhode Island, is leading the campaign.
“We call for a bold response to set the state on the right path to meet aggressive emission-reduction targets that were set forth in the Resilient Rhode Island Act,” said Brigid Ryan, the coalition’s chair.
Such a sweeping cost aimed at one of the biggest and most influential industries in the country is perhaps why few regions have established a carbon tax. British Columbia has the most well known. Ireland and Finland also have tax-carbon programs. According to at least one study, the British Columbia program, which started in 2008, appears to have positive results, creating jobs and lowering greenhouse-gas emissions.
Energize Rhode Island estimated that a carbon tax in Rhode Island would create up to 2,000 new jobs during the first two years.
One of the principal arguments for a carbon tax is that it keeps money in Rhode Island that otherwise is spent on imported fuels. According to the Office of Energy Resources, the state spends $3.1 billion on out-of-state fossil fuels.
Last year, Rep. Daniel McKiernan, D-Providence, pulled his sponsorship from the legislation, after he concluded that a carbon tax would harm the economy. The 2015 legislation was proposed by Brown University student Solomon Goldstein-Rose, with support of other students and faculty.
This year, a broader coalition of business leaders and lawmakers are endorsing the idea. The sponsors of the legislation, as well as House leadership, say a carbon tax may not get approved in 2016, but it could be gaining acceptance and pass in the future.
“It’s a new idea. So new ideas usually take a little time and people to get accustomed to it,” House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told ecoRI News. “And (we will) let it go through committee and we’ll get input and we’ll let the process go it’s normal course.”
A hearing for the bill is expected in late March or early April.