Commentary: Pricing carbon would be good for our communities and our country

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2017, file photo, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski speaks in Salt Lake City. A new Associated Press-NORC poll finds that Americans want local officials to do more to battle global warming now that federal officials aren’t. That rings true with Biskupski, who co-chairs two committees of mayors that are fighting climate change. One of her groups has 115 cities committed to the goal of having their cities operating entirely on renewable energy by the year 2035. Salt Lake City is hoping to beat that goal by a few years. “We’re leading the conversation because we have to now,” Biskupski said. “Here we are with the president coming out against supporting the Paris agreement, now we really ramped things up with the mayors across the country.” (Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

As a resident of Salt Lake CIty who is concerned about climate change, I am celebrating Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

Biskupski recently attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in Honolulu, where she sponsored a resolution entitled “In Support of a National Price on Carbon Emissions.” The bipartisan resolution passed with the following wording: “Be it resolved that the United States Conference of Mayors strongly urges the United States Congress to pass legislation that imposes a price on carbon emissions.”

The resolution went on to describe the wide range of benefits a price on carbon would offer our city and our country. It would: “promote energy efficiency and accelerate clean energy investments,” “spur innovation and reduce reliance on foreign energy sources” and “encourage and empower households and businesses to invest in conservation and domestic carbon-free energy sources.”

Not only would a price on carbon bring these positive changes, but it would also help protect our communities from future harm.

Mayors are already on the front lines of dealing with climate change. When a historic drought hits or a record-breaking flood comes, people want answers and action. In Salt Lake City we’ve seen regional forest fire smoke affect our air quality, flash floods and a steady uptick in average annual temperatures that affect our snowpack, tourist dollars and summer water supply.

I appreciate Biskupski for helping unite mayors across the country to advance a climate solution. If the U.S. Congress prices carbon pollution as the Conference of Mayors recommends, our emissions will go down, our air will be cleaner and our climate will begin the long process of stabilization.

This vote from Biskupski is especially meaningful because a carbon pricing bill is under consideration at the national level right now. In Congress, more than 50 representatives are cosponsoring the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), which would price carbon pollution and give every American a monthly dividend check. A policy such as this will reduce carbon emissions while protecting people financially as America transitions to a clean energy economy. After this strong endorsement from Mayor Biskupski, I hope that Rep. Chris Stewart and Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney will take a close look at H.R. 763 and offer it their support.

Their support would be welcomed by people of all political stripes. A recent poll from Luntz Global showed that 75 percent of Republicans under 40 support putting a price on carbon. A recent Yale Climate Opinion Survey showed a majority of Utah Republicans of all ages believe in man-made climate change and are looking to our leaders to find solutions. And a recent Yale Climate Opinion Survey showed a majority of Utah Republicans of all ages believe in man-made climate change and are looking to our leaders to find solutions.

Democratic voters frequently rank climate change among their highest priorities in national Issues. And economists who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations agree that a carbon price is an efficient, effective approach to this catastrophic problem.

Even if we don’t agree on everything, people like my neighbors and me agree that climate change must be addressed — immediately.

Thankfully, agreement is emerging among our elected officials. The Energy Innovation Act has bipartisan sponsorship in Congress. And at the local level, the Conference of Mayors set a wonderful example for all elected officials by working across party lines on this important issue.

I’m grateful to Mayor Biskupski for taking this stand, and for helping mayors across the country transition away from fossil fuels.

Regardless of whether your cap is red or blue, I hope you agree: Climate change is too big a problem to let partisanship interfere.

Bill Barron, Salt Lake City, is a regional coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, covering Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.