President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature climate policies—the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement on global emissions reductions. If he is successful, we will need a Plan B that the Republicans cannot obstruct. That means turning to states and cities, and in a big way.
Some have already started to think about how climate change can be fought at the state level. But there is a lot more work to be done. One of the most hotly debated ballot initiatives in 2016 was Washington’s first-of-its-kind proposal for a state-wide carbon tax, known as Ballot Initiative 732 (I-732). Despite the robust debate over its merits, however, the proposal went down to defeat with only 41 percent of the vote. That was at least in part because many who support aggressive carbon taxes or other carbon pricing approaches welcomed I-732’s defeat. We were among them.[...]
Taxing carbon for investment in oppressed and underserved communities is the core of a new progressive politics that marries climate and equity goals in a powerful, simultaneous rejection of polluters’ free ride on climate change and the ruinous, often racist, austerity politics of the last forty years. The coalitions of racial justice, labor, and environmental groups that will be needed to win price-and-invest campaigns in the states might also be the template we need for rebuilding progressive power nationally. When we choose this path, the communities that have been hurt the most by, and gained the least from, the fossil fuel economy are put at the center of action on climate change and broadly included in the huge clean energy and clean economy investment opportunity that lies before us. That is the right thing to do, and it is the best path forward for our people, our country, and our planet.