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Community Perspective

Why our generation is seizing the mantle on climate

Regardless of how the election shakes out in the fall, we need climate solutions that can pass and last. Policies that are introduced in one administration and quickly repealed in the next are not a viable way to address climate change.

Instead of hoping that the political pendulum will forever hang in one corner, we can — and must — advance bipartisan climate strategies that can stand the test of time.

That is why we are proud to be among more than 350 student body presidents, from all 50 states and different ideological backgrounds, who are joining together in support of the carbon dividends climate solution. This declaration, the largest statement of student government leaders in U.S. history, unites conservatives and liberals in common cause.

Importantly, we are not only calling attention to the problem but also are also rallying around a major, concrete policy framework. Where our political leaders have been unwilling or unable to find common ground on climate, we on college campuses are showing them how it’s done.

This national coalition of student body presidents reflects our generation’s hunger for solutions. It also demonstrates the unique appeal of the carbon dividends climate strategy, which last year earned the endorsement of more than 3,500 U.S. economists, the largest-ever statement of economists on any subject.

That statement’s signees include thousands of economics professors from our college and university campuses. They did their part in shining a spotlight on this cornerstone solution. Now we are doing ours by amplifying their expertise and laying the groundwork for this essential climate fix.

The carbon dividends solution would hold fossil fuel companies accountable by charging a fee for their emissions. This would incentivize an economy-wide transition to clean energy and quickly deliver the emissions reductions needed to tackle climate change. In addition, by returning the revenue from the fee to households as a dividend, the plan also would ensure that the vast majority of Americans — especially the most vulnerable — emerge financially ahead as part of our climate response.

At the same time, the proposal would streamline regulations and provide policy certainty for individuals and entrepreneurs to invest in a green future. Through a carbon fee on imports from other countries, the plan would also protect the competitiveness of the U.S. economy and incentivize other countries to follow our lead with climate policies of their own.

Wherever one falls on the political spectrum, the carbon dividends solution has something in it for you. For conservatives, this market-based plan would harness the power of incentives and innovation to advance clean energy. For liberals, it would address climate change in a way that, thanks to the revenue returned to households, also promotes equity and justice.

Most importantly, this proposal would penetrate to the heart of the climate challenge and deliver emissions reductions far faster, cheaper, and greater than ever before. Carbon pricing of just a few pennies per pound of CO2 would allow us to sail far beyond the goals of the Paris Agreement and protect our families and communities from climate disruption.

At a moment when our country is having long-overdue conversations about racial justice, the carbon dividends plan would help address the challenges of climate disruption and pollution that burden all Americans, but especially Black and brown communities. Additionally, combining a carbon fee with a dividend would improve the financial position of most lower- and middle-income households, helping communities of color disproportionately.

Ultimately, our generation is tired of partisan theater and eager to see our political leaders come together around concrete, durable climate solutions. With today’s statement, we are not only making this desire known but also are modeling what bipartisan collaboration looks like.

Young people are on the march, but the timeliness of climate change means that our elected leaders must be the ones to act. This will require politicians to circumvent the cozy allure of short-term thinking and summon the courage to work across the aisle and lead for a future day. It is what our moment demands and what our leaders must rise to achieve.

With this record-breaking bipartisan statement of student body presidents — collectively many of the foremost leaders of our generation — we are offering a mandate and a plan. To those in positions of power willing to answer this call, we look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the important work ahead.

 

Riley von Borstel is a sophomore at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is the 2020-21 president of the Student Government Association. Her email address is rrvonborstel@alaska.edu.  

Asim Ahmed is a senior at the University of Georgia. He is the 2020-21 president of the Student Government Association. His email address is asim.ahmed@uga.edu.

Fana Ruth HaileSelassie is a senior at Spelman College. She is the 2020-21 president of the Student Government Association. Her email address is fhailese@spelman.edu.

Nicolo Ferretti is a senior at Georgetown University. He is the 2020-21 president of the Student Government Association. His email address is nf232@georgetown.edu.

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