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Despite Big-Time Backing, Climate Leadership Council’s Carbon Dividend Campaign Falls Flat

The Climate Leadership Council (CLC), an international policy institute whose mission is to mobilize global leaders around effective and equitable climate solutions, has launched a new ad campaign promoting its proposed carbon tax. Despite backing from heavy-hitters such as ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Procter and Gamble and Unilever, the reception has been mixed.

CLC’s ad points to the deployment of a “carbon dividends program” as a catalyst for drastically driving down greenhouse gas emissions — a notion that is supported by a recent study published by the organization, which revealed that the proposal could reduce emissions twice as fast as Obama-era policies.

The ad also highlight’s the programs four pillars:

  • A gradually rising and revenue-neutral carbon tax;
  • Carbon dividend payments to all Americans, funded by 100 percent of the revenue;
  • The rollback of carbon regulations that are no longer necessary; and
  • Border carbon adjustments to level the playing field and promote American competitiveness.

It even claims that the bottom 70 percent of Americans would be financially better off under the program.

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They’re big claims, but with high-profile companies backing them, the program definitely holds appeal. But not everyone is buying it. According to critics, embedded within the plan’s “pillars” are a myriad of details that impede on rather than spur real progress.

Greenpeace finds the program to be nothing more than a “new regulation exempting polluters from facing legal consequences for their role in fueling climate change,” while a recent article in the Huffington Post suggests that it will favor urban dwellers who require less energy than those living in rural areas. Others, such as Food & Water Watch, are concerned about the plan’s potential impact on pollution measures, shifting the cost burden of pollution onto citizens, as opposed to polluters.

The presence of oil company logos on the ad doesn’t help either. While organizations such as Unilever and The Nature Conservancy have garnered reputations as environmental leaders, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Total have made considerable gains at the expense of the environment. Many view their backing of the campaign and the program as a farce — a way to draw attention away from the fact that they have previously funded campaigns of climate deniers and used their influence to stall the adoption of climate policies.

The World Resources Institute (WRI), one of CLC’s strategic partners, has taken a slightly more positive stance in regards to the campaign, but believes the carbon program is not a standalone solution.

“The Climate Leadership Council is bringing bold, fresh thinking to the question of how to reduce U.S. carbon emissions in a way that is efficient, effective and politically viable. The proposal offers the possibility for a bipartisan approach to addressing climate change in a pro-market, pro-growth manner,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the WRI. “To avoid backsliding, existing carbon-reduction policies should continue until a carbon price is put in place that will produce greater emissions reductions. In addition, complementary policies addressing other market failures and non-carbon greenhouse gases will be needed.”

The CLC’s proposal offers a step in the right direction, but backlash following the launch of its most recent campaign indicates that a more robust solution for climate change is needed.


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