President Ambar Endorses Carbon Pricing Initiative

December 18, 2018

Amanda Nagy

Bikes outside Cox Administration Building
Bicycles lined up outside the Cox Administration Building.
Photo credit: Gregory Pendolino

Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar recently signed a letter calling on national and local elected officials to enact a carbon pricing policy.

Ambar joins more than 20 college and university presidents who have signed the Higher Education Carbon Pricing Initiative. Carbon pricing is widely regarded as a low-cost, efficient solution that can grow jobs in clean energy and other sectors and generate economic benefits.

The open letter urges state and federal lawmakers to proactively work to enact legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions and transition to a clean-energy economy.

“Carbon pricing creates an economy-wide incentive to reduce greenhouse gases in economically efficient ways that can, if revenues are used wisely, benefit low-income households while stimulating job growth,” the letter states. “The World Bank has endorsed carbon pricing as a way to accurately account for the external costs of emissions, like crop loss, flood damage, and medical treatments that result from heat waves and other climate change disasters. Thousands of businesses support carbon pricing for its transparent and predictable approach.”

Oberlin College has long been a leader in supporting initiatives that place colleges and universities at the forefront of the movement toward environmental sustainability. “It is important that we support efforts to fight climate change on our campus,” says President Ambar, “but we must also encourage policy makers to adopt legislation that will foster growth in clean energy and enable future generations to thrive.”

The Higher Education Carbon Pricing Endorsement Initiative is led by Our Climate in partnership with the National Geographic documentary series Years of Living Dangerously. Our Climate mobilizes and empowers young people to educate the public and elected officials about science-based, equitable climate policy solutions that build a livable world. It leads the #PutAPriceOnIt campaign, which recruits, train, and support student leaders across the country to advocate for carbon pricing.

Second-year Jess Wilber, founder of the Oberlin chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit advocacy group, says she is thrilled that President Ambar agreed to sign the initiative, and she hopes it will grab the attention of legislators.

Wilber, an environmental studies and East Asian studies double major, notes that a bill titled the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act” was recently introduced by a bipartisan team of representatives to the House floor. “President Ambar’s endorsement came at the perfect moment. We will need to demonstrate to our congressional leaders that the revenue-neutral carbon tax presented in this bill is widely supported by their constituents.”

In December 2006, Oberlin College was the first of its peer institutions to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which set an institutional plan for achieving carbon neutrality. In 2010, the college submitted its first plan with a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025.

After President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, Ambar joined the “Grand Coalition” of businesses, mayors, and college and university presidents affirming support for climate action.

Oberlin’s Committee on Environmental Sustainability (CES), which includes faculty and staff and representatives from the city of Oberlin charged with overseeing the development and implementation of Oberlin’s environmental policies, also supports a carbon pricing policy.

“The current members of CES recognize that regional and national legislation, such as the fee and dividend proposal advocated by the Citizens Climate Lobby, are critical to addressing efforts to address climate change,” CES chair and Professor of Environmental Studies John Petersen states in an endorsement letter. “A price on carbon would increase the economic advantages of the sustainability leadership that Oberlin College is already exercising.”

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