Impressions of My First CCL Conference – An Unexpected Solicitation
to Join Ted’s Army
By Arianna Van Meurs
Marin Chapter – Citizens’ Climate Lobby
July 12, 2018
CCL Feels Like Family
I’ve been a carbon tax advocate since 2008, when I staffed a tax reform commission
organized by Gov. Schwarzenegger that included study of a revenue-neutral carbon
tax. So I was happy to discover Citizens’ Climate Lobby last October. But when Peter
Joseph suggested I write about my impressions as a first-time attendee to the DC
Conference and Lobby Day, I hesitated – not because I don’t love CCL — it’s a uniquely
supportive and welcoming community of amazing volunteers.
I was thrilled to attend my first CCL conference. The agenda provided comprehensive
sessions on the many facets of enacting CFD, and I was excited to test my lobbying
skills. By Monday, the main education day, I was immersed and impressed with the
commitment and dedication of staff and volunteers, all preparing an army of citizen
lobbyists for the big day.
…But… Do I Have to Join Ted’s Army?
My feeling of belonging to this new community was unexpectedly tested during the
presentation by Ted Halstead, CEO of The Climate Leadership Council (CLC). I had
heard about the similarly ‘acronymed’ organization, with its almost identical CFD
proposal and shared advisors. I was eager to hear Ted speak, but not prepared for his
‘grand bargain’ proposal.
After being welcomed with a standing ovation, Ted referred to the ‘CCL army’ as
necessary for getting his ‘grand bargain’ passed. Then, asking who believed that
markets are more efficient than regulations in solving climate change, in one deft move,
Ted asserted that more than half of the audience were ‘climate conservatives’, thus
I gulped. Clearly, this was a false dichotomy. It doesn’t need to be either a carbon price
or regulations. When he stated that a ‘grand bargain’ involving the “rollback” of carbon
regulations was both economically and politically necessary, I looked around, unsure of
what exactly was happening.
Rollbacks are Already Underway
The current administration has already succeeded in undermining the Clean Power
Plan, a cornerstone of our nation’s plans to reduce electricity sector carbon emissions
and is attempting to roll back the federal light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards,
the single most effective tool to decarbonize the transportation sector. What we are
witnessing right now is how one Congress and one administration can successfully ally
to undo years of successful policy. Think about what a future administration and
Congress could do to a policy that created a robust tax on carbon.
CFD is not, on its own, a Panacea — We Need Both
Regulations such as renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and fuel economy standards,
refined over many years, have played a pivotal role in launching the renewable energy
and clean transportation industries. Even so, the United States is not on a path to
achieving the reductions necessary to meet the 2050 emissions goal of 80% below
1990 levels. We can’t afford to be talking about substitutions – a price in exchange of
regs. We need additive measures.
Transportation represents the majority of an individual’s carbon footprint and provides
a good example of how we need both robust regulations and carbon pricing. In
California, where I work, the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate and fuel standards
— stricter than federal standards — together have jump-started the electric vehicle (EV)
industry. But demand for EVs is still weak, despite California’s cap and trade system
and a growing consumer choice of EVs. A federal carbon price would accelerate the
shift from conventional to Electric Vehicles.
I don’t believe the CFD is a panacea, as Ted asserted. I believe the CFD will work best
in conjunction with regulations that help cajole industries to research and innovate
faster than they would otherwise.
The ‘Grand Bargain’ is Too Great A Gamble, So…
A major concern with the ‘grand bargain’ is whether the behavioral changes required to
lower carbon output will occur with only a price. This deserves robust discussion right
now, and next year why not add breakout sessions focusing on the actual regulations
targeted for potential rollback, how consumers and industry might respond, and what
our position should be. Our volunteer army, the public, other organizations and MoCs
will want to know.
I strongly agree with Ted on this point: We can’t afford to get this wrong. Let’s be
transparent and openly discuss what we are agreeing to give away in return for their
carbon dividend plan. Let’s also consider the role that the United States has played in
clean tech and what other countries might do if we roll back regulations.
One final point: where will we be if we allow carbon regulations to be scuttled and then
a new conservative administration and congress cuts, or worse, kills the carbon tax?
I shudder to think.