By Patricia Beffa-Negrini, Ph.D., retired Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and member of Monadnock Sustainability Hub’s Board of Directors.
Originally published in The Monadnock Shopper News, Green Monadnock column, August, 2023
How does one fall into becoming a climate activist in retirement? For me, it was stumbling upon the New Hampshire Carbon Cash-Back Coalition (C3).
A grassroots effort, C3 mobilizes voters in NH to show support for the most effective, efficient, and fair approach to reducing carbon pollution — putting a fee on fossil fuel production and rebating that fee back to all citizens in a way that protects household budgets, jobs, and the economy. For example, Canada has a federal version of C3 and in July eligible families of 4 started receiving quarterly payments between $184 and $386 depending on the province where they live. Some call this fee a “carbon tax.” However, C3 doesn’t raise revenues, so it is correct to call it a “fee.” Thirty-eight NH towns have passed a carbon cash-back resolution, with my small town of Nelson passing it on a 48 to 22 vote. While bringing this effort forward, I learned about climate activism while meeting wonderful people who care deeply about solving the climate crisis. Check out the Carbon Cash-Back Coalition (carboncashback.org/), see if your town passed the resolution, and learn how to get involved.
As a retired health professional, I wondered if my C3 climate activism would also have positive impacts on health and healthcare costs, thus helping people’s budgets even more. In 2022, Inside Climate News reported that since 2000, deaths per year in the U.S. due to air pollution increased from 2.9 to 4.5 million. The poor air quality days this summer from the Canadian wildfires, made more intense due to global warming, will undoubtedly increase mortality in NH. Furthermore, compared to current policy, a carbon fee in the U.S. would decrease sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by more than 95% and nitrogen oxides by about 75%, according to a 2019 research assessment by Kaufman and others.
Comparing carbon pricing to renewable energy requirements shows carbon pricing on top. The requirement in NH is that 23.4% of the electricity delivered by utilities this year comes from renewable resources. A study in the Rust Belt showed that carbon pricing delivers health co-benefits of $211 per ton of CO2 reduced in 2030, 63% greater than the health co-benefit of reducing the same amount of CO2 through a renewable energy requirements approach.
You might be thinking, “They will never price carbon pollution, even if it will improve health.” However, indicators show carbon pricing in the U.S. is inevitable. Based on global and national trends, it is likely that Congress will price carbon in this decade. The recommendation from experts is to implement this effort using C3, which missed being included in the Inflation Reduction Act by only one vote. According to John Gage, NH Citizens’ Climate Lobby State Coordinator, carbon pricing is spreading. In the last decade, the number of countries and regions pricing carbon (70, including the EU and Canada) has tripled, reaching 23% of global fossil fuel use. U.S. businesses will soon pay a carbon price to some of those countries on exports of energy-intensive goods, such as steel, aluminum, and cement, starting with the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). CBAM strongly motivates trading partners to similarly price carbon to avoid paying other countries for pollution and remain competitive.
Positive public health gains from implementing ambitious climate actions such as carbon pricing outweigh their costs. By expressing our support for C3 and CBAM, our civic leaders will feel confident to move forward to ensure a healthy future — not only clinically but economically. I hope you will join me and participate in the statewide Carbon Cash-Back Coalition or Monadnock Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Another simple action is to ask Senator Shaheen, Senator Hassen, and Representative Kuster to support the PROVE IT Act. This bipartisan Act would prepare us for CBAM by requiring the Department of Energy to study and compare the carbon emissions of goods like aluminum, cement, crude oil, fertilizer, iron, steel, and plastic made in the USA as compared to other countries. Please take a minute and go to cclusa.org/prove for a simple tool to email your congressional representatives and take a step toward improved air quality and health.
Patricia Beffa-Negrini, Ph.D., lives in Nelson, NH, and is a retired Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who directed the Keene State College Dietetics Program and the Online Master of Public Health in Nutrition Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She maintains websites for the NH Network for Environment, Energy, and Climate and their Plastics Working Group’s Ten Towns Ten Actions Toolkit to rethink plastics. She is a member of the NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action, Monadnock Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and recently joined the board of the Monadnock Sustainability Hub. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.