Carbon Pricing Bill Is a Bold Step Forward

The Market Choice Act marks an important opportunity to advance the conversation on climate solutions.

The MARKET CHOICE Act, introduced by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida), is the first major federal carbon reduction legislation lead by a Republican in nearly a decade. This is a thoughtful, serious proposal designed to address the threat that birds, people and the planet face from a changing climate.

Four quick facts about the MARKET CHOICE Act:

  • It replaces the federal gas tax with a carbon tax.
  • The revenue generated by this tax on greenhouse gas emissions will primarily be invested in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, in efforts to protect coastal communities from storms and sea-level rise, and in programs to help low-income families with their energy bills.
  • There is a conditional moratorium on EPA regulation of stationary sources—meaning facilities like power plants and factories—for the purpose of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. EPA can continue to regulate emissions for other purposes, like air quality standards, even if those regulations have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Leading modelers predict greenhouse gas reductions will be close to 30% by 2030, similar to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan.

There are challenging aspects to this bill. It includes a conditional moratorium on EPA regulation. It sets a price on carbon that starts at $24 per ton. It invests revenue in specific areas. We still have questions about the consequences of the limits on EPA authority, whether the price is sufficient, and whether the revenue is allocated in the best way. And we’re eager to have that debate because it beats not talking about the existential environmental challenge of our time.

This is a marker bill—something to spark debate and innovative thinking. The modeling scenarios for this bill, generated by leading experts in the field, suggest that this proposal could help reach the goals set by the Paris Accord or the Clean Power Plan. That is hugely significant, and an idea of that scale demands our serious attention and engagement.  But the devil is always in the details. We hope that, with his release of this proposal, Representative Curbelo sparks a reinvigorated public discussion with decision makers of both political parties. How refreshing would it be to have a real debate about how to address climate change, rather than whether it exists or what is causing it?

Audubon has been engaged with Representative Curbelo’s office on his proposal. We want to continue to work with him and our partners to further develop and advance this bill, and any decision about our ultimate support for climate legislation will always be determined by what is best for birds and the places they need.

Audubon is proud of its centrist, pragmatic approach. As an example, take Audubon’s position on wind energy. We understand that expanding the production of renewable energy is critical if we’re going to address climate change. And, while we don’t want to see a single bird harmed, the threat of species-level extinction from climate change is a far greater threat to birds and people than badly-sited wind turbines. Instead, we emphasize the need for proper siting of wind farms and we’ve both worked with industry and performed our watchdog function over government in search of a solution. 

Audubon’s legacy has always been about bold action—starting 118 years ago with an unwavering defense of birds targeted for mass slaughter by the fashion industry, to our support of the banning of DDT in Rachel Carson’s era, to following our own science about the threat of climate change today—we will stay true to protecting birds and the places they need today and tomorrow.

We look forward to working with members of Congress and other partners in the serious, thoughtful, and creative conversation needed to identify a solution that addresses our changing climate at the necessary scope and scale. If you’re an Audubon member, an advocate or a community scientist, please urge your members of Congress to come to the table to discuss sustainable climate solutions.

To read more about the proposal see these articles from the Wall Street Journal and Grist.