Carbon Tax Decision in Massachusetts is Underway

David Harary, ERS, for Zondits

As the clean energy revolution continues, state and local governments are busy leading the fight against climate change. The number one policy initiative advocated by environmentalists and economists alike is to put a price on carbon. In economic terms, achieving total market efficiency means we should account for the negative repercussions we extend on our society.

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In Massachusetts, a host of organizations, advocates, legislators, and businesses are currently pushing for the state to enact the first carbon tax legislation in the US. Today, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy is reviewing two carbon pricing bills that cap out at $40 per ton of CO2 emitted.

The first bill, H.1726, would place an immediate fee of $20/ton of CO2 emitted and rise $5 per year until it hits $40. The bill has already received 58 cosponsoring legislators across the state. S. 1821 on the other hand would start at $10/ton and rise $5 per year until it hits $40. This second bill, which has received 65 total cosponsors, would see 100% of its revenue fall back to taxpayers, while only 80% of the House bill’s revenue would be distributed back to taxpayers. The remaining 20%, however, would go toward a green infrastructure fund for projects in transportation, climate change resilience, and renewable energy.

Massachusetts is wary of the impacts of climate change as its eastern coasts make it especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. New England’s largest city, Boston, is therefore taking important steps to become more resilient. Extreme precipitation, storms, heat, and flooding are likely to hit the city in the coming decades.

While it’s becoming increasingly important for cities like Boston to invest in resilience, it’s also important for larger government entities to step up their fight against climate change. Without investments and technological breakthroughs in the renewable energy space, the U.S. cannot become truly sustainable for the long-term. However, carbon pricing may also be necessary for the U.S. to adequately reduce its emissions and prevent the severe consequences that climate change poses.

An April 2017 report from the Carbon Tax Center shows that carbon pricing legislation is promising in seven other states. If enacted, Massachusetts would become a trend-setter for other states to follow. It would also be a signal to foreign countries that America is still pushing forward to fulfill its obligation to the Paris Accord. Despite the Trump Administration’s disregard for climate change and its impacts, states like Massachusetts can show the world this problem can be solved. A carbon tax in Massachusetts would be a historic decision and one step closer towards tackling climate change.