Ephraim Kum and Obaid Barakzai: A climate solution everyone can support

As we head into the homestretch of a heated presidential campaign, it’s worth remembering that the parties still must come together to solve major challenges facing our country. For our generation, no challenge looms larger than climate change.

Like young people before us, we hope to enjoy the same — or better — opportunities as our parents. Yet unless we find a climate solution that can pass Congress and stand the test of time, our future security and prosperity are at risk.

That’s why we have joined more than 350 student body presidents of America’s colleges and universities in support of a bipartisan climate policy framework. It’s called carbon dividends. Already, this policy approach has attracted a large coalition of businesses and environmental leaders, and has been endorsed by thousands of economists. Now we are adding our support, with the largest student government leader statement in history.

With this national call, we hope to underscore how this climate strategy can unify Americans of all stripes. The student leaders who signed on come from all 50 states and represent the full gamut of political perspectives and life experiences. Yet we all find something to like in this concrete solution. We want to explain why it has earned our support — and encourage all Utahns to support it, too.

This policy approach would harness market forces to swiftly transition America to a clean energy future. It would hold fossil fuel companies accountable by charging a fee for their emissions while removing carbon regulations that tie businesses' hands.

One leading version of the carbon dividends framework, the Baker-Shultz plan, has earned the support of Utah business leaders because it would unleash innovation across the economy while slashing U.S. emissions by more than half by 2035.

The carbon dividends strategy would also reach beyond American shores to ensure China and India are doing their part to reduce emissions. By charging a similar fee on imports at the border, it would encourage foreign corporations to switch to clean energy — or face a penalty in the U.S. market. This is the type of strategy Utah must embrace if we want to safeguard our environment and keep American industry competitive.

For young people like us, at the dawn of our careers, it’s essential that any climate solution grows the economy. With carbon dividends, we don’t have to worry. This policy provides businesses with the market certainty they need to pioneer the clean technologies of the future. In fact, a new report shows the Baker-Shultz plan would unlock $1.4 trillion in new investment in energy innovation and create 1.6 million American jobs.

Finally, this solution ensures families won’t shoulder the burden of transitioning to a clean energy system. It requires all the money from the carbon fee to cycle directly back to households in quarterly dividend payments. This will insulate most families from any increase in energy costs as America switches over to clean energy — and ensures all carbon fee revenue flows back into the economy, not to government coffers.

With so many advantages, carbon dividends have attracted broad support. For conservatives, it employs market incentives to achieve rapid climate progress without growing government. For liberals, it would deliver more emission reductions than any other concrete proposal out there. For innovators, it provides the certainty they need to pioneer the next generation of clean energy technologies.

With something for everyone, this solution offers the best chance for achieving lasting climate progress. We hope our nationwide show of support encourages Utahns — and all Americans — to set aside partisan differences and unite behind this commonsense climate solution. Our future depends on it.

Ephraim Kum

Ephraim Kum is student body president at the University of Utah.

Obaid Barakzai

Obaid Barakzai is student body president at Westminster College.