Aaliyah Alberts: Market-based solutions won’t address climate change

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Students from the Madeleine Choir School stand with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski as the attend the Utah Students for Clean Air rally in the Capitol Rotunda during the 2018 Legislature at the State capitol Salt Lake City Monday March 5, 2018.

Earlier in October, more than 100 leaders of different political ideals came together to sign the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact. While it is great to see leaders come together in support of fighting climate change, I do not think that the compact goes far enough.

It is centered around seven key milestones to assist legislators when drafting climate policies, as well as calling upon community leaders to “act as responsible stewards of the environment and address a wide range of climate and clean air challenges,” according to “Conservative Utah leaders voice support for climate action,” a KUER article published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

These key milestones are tied to market-based solutions, but especially milestone seven. Market-based solutions are solutions that are centered around using the market economy to solve an issue, like adjusting prices or trying to increase demand for sustainable products, rather than taking a legislative approach.

While market-based solutions are a step in the right direction, they fall short in many ways and are not enough to slow warming and lower pollution to safe levels.

Climate change is not a market-based problem, which is why it cannot be solved with market-based solutions. Without a healthy planet, there cannot be a market, which is why solutions need to prioritize the planet and public health over the economy.

While it would be great to see more electric vehicles, it is not realistic to assume that adding more electric vehicle charging stations and converting government fleets to electric vehicles will incentivize many Utahns to make the switch. This is because market-based solutions are typically more expensive for the consumers because they are directly taxed or the companies increase prices to comply with new costs. Raising costs on fossil fuel products, like gasoline, may be detrimental to Utah families, especially to those in lower- and working-class communities.

A more effective strategy to lower pollution and slowing climate change might include incentivizing electric vehicle ownership by subsidizing electric or hybrid vehicles, or giving tax credits to electric vehicle owners. These incentives would make it more affordable for middle-, working- and lower-class families to transition to electric vehicles, and work toward lower air pollution.

Similar incentives could be used to “support housing options, encourage active transportation, preserve open space, improve energy efficiency in buildings, and link economic development with transportation and housing decisions,” which is what milestone four advises. Governmental funding such as tax credits and subsidies are a more effective and realistic way to ensure a transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner air and a cleaner environment.

It is great to see state legislators and community leaders come together and reach across party lines to accept and address climate change. However, efforts to reduce pollution and climate change need to be made with every community in Utah in mind. These efforts also need to be less focused on a market-based approach and more focused on realistic ways to help Utahns lower their emissions.

Though working toward a transition to more electric vehicles through “leading by example” and putting more work into researching Utah air-quality are good things, they are not enough to reach emission-pollution goals and slow warming.

Aaliyah Alberts, Salt Lake City, is a student at the University of Utah studying environmental and sustainability studies and political science.

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