On Jan. 25, a panel at MIT explored the benefits, costs, and political challenges involved in translating carbon pricing from concept into law in Massachusetts and beyond. Hosted by the student-led MIT Climate Action Team and held at the MIT Stata Center, the panel discussion included Massachusetts state Sen. Michael Barrett and state Rep. Jennifer Benson, authors of two different carbon-pricing bills; Marc Breslow, research and policy director of the carbon-pricing research and advocacy group Climate XChange; and three experts on the topic who are affiliated with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change — Department of Urban Studies and Planning Associate Professor Janelle Knox-Hayes, Joint Program Co-director and Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer John Reilly, and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research Director and MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel. The panelists weighed advantages and disadvantages of carbon pricing as a climate-change solution, clarified differences between the two pending bills, and discussed political challenges faced by these bills.
“The most progressive thing to do if you care about working people is to have absolute revenue neutrality,” said Barrett, who, like Knittel, argued that solar and other renewable energy programs could best be funded through a progressive income tax. “I want to make sure that 100 percent of a carbon fee goes back to working people.” Concerned that a revenue-positive carbon pricing bill would be framed by opponents as a tax, he cautioned that such a bill would be politically unviable for fellow legislators.