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Put A Price On It by Our Climate

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Empower students and millennials across the U.S. to hold polluters accountable with a price on carbon pollution.



As natural disasters ravage communities across the globe, it is increasingly apparent bold action on climate is needed. Putting a price on greenhouse gas pollution is an indispensable step in decarbonizing the economy and securing a safe and healthy future for generations to come. In order to win federal climate policy, states must serve as laboratories of democracy, proving that carbon pricing is effective and politically durable. Many states are actively considering proposals: New York, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington. Passing these bills will require targeted, vigorous, and sustained organizing, and empowering young people to advocate for policies will energize existing efforts and accelerate the pace of legislative success.

Our Climate is poised to take on the challenge as a millennial-led organization with a proven record of training, mobilizing, and empowering young people to advance carbon pricing campaigns in states across the country. Last summer, Our Climate launched the national Put A Price On It campaign in partnership with the National Geographic documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously. The campaign blends grassroots organizing, leadership development, and high-impact communications to build political will for carbon pricing and empower the next generation of climate champions. In its first year the campaign trained dozens of student leaders from 80 diverse campuses to initiate and lead carbon pricing efforts. Through media partnerships, Put A Price On It amplifies the stories unfolding in leading states, strengthens coalitions and energizes elected officials to pass bold legislation on the state-level. Young people are powerful spokespeople in the movement for climate action. As Massachusetts State Senator Barrett told our student leaders recently, “if Senators and House members are going to do the right thing, it’s because you will have provided the pressure and the grassroots force.”

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

The Put A Price On It campaign is building a movement to achieve the following outcomes:

Goal #1: Energize efforts to price carbon in states with active campaigns.

Goal #2: Empower a growing base of racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse young leaders to advocate for strong and equitable climate policy.

Goal #3: Amplify youth support for bold climate action, and carbon pricing specifically, through creative initiatives, social media, and film.

The goals of this proposal continue Our Climate’s track record of creative engagement. Since our organization was founded in Oregon in 2014, our team has demonstrated the potential for creative, youth-led organizing to make carbon pricing a priority among legislators and the public. We organized multiple art initiatives to build a diverse base of support, used that base of support to turn out hundreds of voters to carbon pricing hearings, and passed seven local government resolutions calling on the state legislature to price carbon. As a result, the legislature allocated funding for two studies to assess the economic impact of a carbon price and held multiple hearings on various carbon pricing proposals. Legislators have told us that the voices of young constituents have driven this momentum.

In 2016, the Emmy award-winning documentary series Years of Living Dangerously introduced millions of viewers to Our Climate’s creative engagement model, team, and policy initiative in their second season, and helped launch the Put A Price On It campaign. Since the campaign launch, Our Climate has empowered student leaders from across the country, secured dozens of university president endorsements, and earned national media, expanding the campaign’s reach and impact considerably in a short period of time. Specifically, Our Climate and the Put A Price On It campaign have:

  • Recruited and trained 100 student leaders in 18 red and blue states. This summer, the campaign recruited our largest “class” of students yet; by the the fall of 2017, the Put A Price On It campaign expects student leaders on more than 40 campuses.

  • Secured 35 endorsements from college and university presidents, calling on lawmakers to support carbon pricing as a solution to climate change.

  • Facilitated nearly 200 conversations between state and federal lawmakers and students.

  • Organized more than 200 outreach events to educate and directly engage roughly 6,000 individuals.

  • Established partnerships with 30 national climate, business, youth, and social justice organizations to collaborate on various events and initiatives.  

  • Convened 180 local and state organizations working to price carbon via the Put A Price On It interactive digital map.

  • Educated tens of thousands of voters via the campaign website and social media. #PutAPriceOnIt videos have received nearly 3 million views on Facebook and YouTube; the campaign's websites have received 135,000 pageviews.

Since the campaign launched, young leaders have earned media coverage from campus, local, and national media, including ThinkProgress, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Boston Daily Free Press, Grist, Study Breaks, and Inside Higher Ed, among others.

We have found that the most effective way to build youth support for carbon pricing is by empowering student organizers to recruit and mobilize their peers, while providing the infrastructure and resources to succeed (e.g. helping to place op-eds, preparing to meet with elected officials, etc.).  

Our goals for the next year build upon our past successes and include:

#1. Recruit, train and support 500 student and millennial leaders from target states to effectively advocate for carbon pricing. Our Climate will provide trainings, resources, and support for young leaders to organize their peers, build relationships with decision-makers, and engage the media.

#2. Advance carbon pricing legislation nationwide by mobilizing more than 2,500 students to take concrete action to demonstrate strong support for carbon pricing. Our Climate’s activities will be aligned with in-state partners to ensure the work is strategic and contributing to shared goals.

#3. Amplify youth climate leadership by reaching more than 200,000 people nationally via social media, creative initiatives, and film content. Our Climate’s partnership with the Years of Living Dangerously and their celebrity cast will enable the campaign to reach a national audience on social media, and students ’statewide creative events will receive coverage from local and state media. Our success in this work will ensure that the stories of young climate activists working in their own states to advance strong climate policy are heard around the nation; the campaign is grounded in the belief that state-level campaigns are crucial levers to advance bold climate solutions on the federal level. 

Who will take these actions?

The growing Put A Price On It movement of students, millennials, volunteers, staff and supporters will achieve the goals of this proposal. Our Climate and the Put A Price On It campaigns are specifically led by the demographic served: young people that sense the urgency of climate action.

  • The average age of Our Climate’s staff and board is 24 years old, and women fill all executive positions.

  • Our Climate’s student leaders (Fellows and Field Representatives) are between the ages of 18-24. 35% of the newest class of Fellows identify as a person of color.

  • Our Climate’s students attend schools as small as College of the Atlantic (350 students) and as large as Texas State University (38,000 students).

  • Our Climate’s base of supporters is active on campuses in 20 states around the country, from Washington to Michigan, and Arizona to New Jersey.

  • Our Climate is committed to the inclusion and empowerment of individuals with diverse cultural, ethnic, economic, geographic, and educational backgrounds in the work, from hiring staff and recruiting board members to where and how the campaign engages students across the country.

Where will these actions be taken?

Our Climate has repeatedly witnessed the impact young voices have on decision-makers, as well as in the media, whether testifying to a legislative committee or unveiling creative projects that call for strong climate action. Elected officials have said that they rarely hear from young constituents, and they take note when members of the rising electorate show up and demand support for specific policy. Our Climate provides a venue for students to fulfill both their commitment to addressing climate change and their desire to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.

Over the next year, we plan to increase our impact in states that are actively considering carbon pricing legislation, as state-level wins will lay the groundwork for federal policy. We recognize that it will take a concerted, focused effort to win carbon pricing in any state, which is why we have chosen to focus our resources in states with the highest likelihood of passing legislation in the short term. To maximize our impact, we consult with state coalitions to learn what is most needed to advance the campaign. Our Climate’s leaders contribute by giving testimony, organizing panels and screenings, collecting signatures, publishing letters to the editor, and securing city resolutions in favor of carbon pricing.

As we approach 2018, we have identified six states as priorities, given their legislative timeline, political dynamics, and the strength of their coalition: Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and Washington, D.C. Our Climate staff are drafting legislative engagement plans to ensure that we are prepared to contribute strategically to each state effort. Each plan outlines benchmarks for student leaders to meet, including number of legislator meetings, letters to the editor, social media posts, etc., as well as a timeline for when each action will be taken. In some states, plans emphasize quantifiable goals, e.g. number of legislators contacted, while others require more substantive engagement, e.g. placing op-eds in target districts. We draft each plan in consultation with coalition leads and student leaders, operating at the intersection of grassroots organizing and digital engagement to ensure that we have broad-based representation and support.

In states without campaigns, our leaders are building political will for national policy. Presidents from 35 colleges have signed our endorsement letter, calling on lawmakers to advance carbon pricing. In Arkansas, Georgia, Utah, and Florida, students have been building campus coalitions and lobbying elected officials. Our Climate provides resources and support to students through national calls, webinars, trainings, and one-on-one conversations. To ensure students are meaningfully contributing to the national effort, we’ve developed partnerships with organizations including Citizens Climate Lobby, Environmental Defense Fund, and RepublicEN, all of whom are actively engaged in federal carbon pricing efforts.

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

United States

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What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

A strong price on carbon is the only policy that simultaneously drives energy conservation and clean energy adoption, and that can be ramped up to decrease greenhouse gas emissions at the necessary rate. Natural experiments provide clear evidence that fuel price spikes decrease fossil fuel consumption. The following graph shows how fossil fuel consumption has decreased during historical price spikes:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 7.39.29 AM.pngLeveraging what we have observed about how people respond to higher fuel prices, we can flip this narrative from a tragic one of disasters leading to price spikes and consequent mitigation to an empowering one in which we intentionally raise prices to reduce emissions and thus reduce the rate of climate-change induced natural disasters. Further, state or national carbon pricing can serve as progressive economic policy--and contribute to adaptation efforts--if the revenue is distributed wisely.  

The most current research estimates that carbon taxes that increase over time could help the US meet its share of reductions to achieve the IPCCs climate change targets. A national carbon tax is optimal in terms of eliminating complications of state border tax adjustments, land use patterns, and overall emissions reductions. The most recent study of the carbon tax bill proposed by Baker and Schultz would reduce US emissions by about 40% from BAU by 2030.

By increasing the price of carbon, taxes will shift demand from fossil fuels to renewable sources. Distributing energy generation to a more diverse pool of sources will reduce the harm of future catastrophic climate events by reducing our dependency on specific sources.

While individually states produce only a small portion of national emissions, state level carbon taxes can help states meet their own climate change goals while raising awareness and support for national policy. Our Climate is currently directly supporting carbon pricing campaigns in six states: WA, MA, NY, DC, OR, and VT. Combining the Carbon Tax Center’s estimates for state-level emissions with independent research studies on the impacts of modest carbon taxes in these states (roughly $30/ton), we estimate that Our Climate’s project will directly reduce national carbon emissions from BAU levels by approximately 43 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2e by 2050.

In Massachusetts, the most current estimates suggest that even a modest carbon tax would reduce carbon emissions 5%-10% by 2040, or up to 6.6 MMT. In Vermont, a state-level carbon tax would be sufficient to achieve the state’s emissions reductions goals, a 4.2 MMT reduction from BAU levels by 2050. In Oregon, a $30/ton tax would reduce emissions by 10 MMT by 2035. In Washington, a tax of $30/ton is expected to lower GHG emissions by 8.4% from BAU by 2035, or 7 MMT. Washington DC’s current carbon tax proposal would reduce emissions by about .3 MMT from BAU by 2032. New York’s most recent carbon tax bill would achieve about a 50% reduction in CO2e from 1990 levels by 2030, or 15 MMT from BAU.

What are other key benefits?

Adding Teeth to “We’re Still In”

In July of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown and NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced “America’s Pledge,” an initiative to compile and quantify sub-national actions to meet the U.S. Paris Accord commitments in the wake of Trump’s exit. While helpful for maintaining momentum, these unenforceable pledges currently amount to no more than political statements. Young people empowered to pass sub-national carbon pricing policies, however, can turn these words into quantifiable emission reductions.

Proof: States As Labs for Democracy

If the Put A Price On It movement is successful, it will help prove that states can be laboratories for democracy on comprehensive climate policy. The new generation of energetic pan-political leadership the movement cultivates is vital to this dream: Republicans not only control the federal government, but 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships. Carbon fees have continued to gain traction among corporate and conservative influencers (as demonstrated by the Climate Leadership Council). We add to this momentum through award-winning media and organizing. For example, viewers of Years of Living Dangerously were inspired by the story of Jordan Vogel: a young rural Texan moving his conservative family and campus to support climate action. Our Climate’s diverse national network of student leaders are engaging both sides of state house aisles, and changing perceptions on climate in challenging cultural conditions.

Broad Support for Climate Action

Our Climate’s partnerships with communication groups like YEARS and Climate Nexus helps build support for climate action. Climate change is consistently underreported and ranks twelfth on American voters’ list of priorities. In the absence of responsible mainstream reporting, creative media strategies like those in the Put A Price On It campaign are vital to reaching the digital screens of the unengaged masses.  

The general climate awareness cultivated by the campaign has already yielded concrete results. In Oregon, the groundswell generated for a state carbon price was instrumental momentum needed to pass related policies, including "coal to clean" legislation. Implementation of pending carbon pricing proposals themselves will also be immeasurably stronger thanks to the watchdog effect of a more informed and activated citizenry.

Civic Participation

In these turbulent times, it is more critical than ever to empower young people with focus, direction, tools, networks, and inspiration to act on climate and defend democracy. Our Climate is grounded in a shared purpose – a mission to protect our collective future – that brings people together, fosters strong relationships, and transforms despair in the face of the climate crisis. Like most modern crises, climate is not a short-term problem. Society will need capable policy advocates for the long haul and that work starts with young people, the next generation of climate leaders.


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

The success of the campaign depends on having resources to recruit, train, and support student leaders. Aside from staff salaries, campaign expenses fall into the following categories:

  • Travel: Although our team is accustomed to working remotely, nothing can replace in-person outreach when it comes to recruiting and developing new student leaders. Our organizers travel to conduct meetings, hold outreach events and trainings, and facilitate conversations with legislators. We reimburse student leaders for expenses when they are incurred on behalf of the campaign, e.g. carpooling to a Youth Lobby Day.

  • Supplies: Whether it’s tabling at a campus fair, organizing a creative project, or preparing for a meeting with a legislator, supplies are necessary. Some supplies are basic--duct tape to hang a banner, for instance--and others require greater investments, such as designing toolkits and ordering campaign stickers.

  • Marketing and promotion: Reaching a large audience is critical to the success of this campaign, to attract new supporters, garner media attention, and demonstrate that there is growing momentum for carbon pricing. Promoting the campaign through targeted social media posts, digital actions, and videos is a powerful way to do this.

A gift of $10,000 will support 20 Fellows to carry out activities to win state-level carbon pricing policy. Providing financial support to student leaders not only builds in accountability to achieve goals, but also allows students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to participate. Through a competitive process, we select students to lead carbon pricing advocacy efforts while developing the skills to be long-term climate advocates. $10,000 will result in roughly 2,000 hours of targeted, youth-led carbon pricing work.

Cost of Proposed Policies

Available macroeconomic studies of state and national carbon prices show positive outcomes for all but a few possible policy scenarios (with price and revenue recycling as variables). For example:

  • A study prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Energy resources showed increases of total employment and Real Disposable Personal Income (RDPI) under all modeled policy scenarios. Three modeled scenarios showed modest declines in Gross State Product (GSP).

  • The impact of all carbon tax scenarios tested for the Vermont economy stretch between no more than a “-0.04% and +0.03% change in the pace of annual GSP growth”.

  • A study by the Center for Climate Strategies on a proposed carbon tax in the District of Columbia shows no material impact on the size of DC’s economy, with a ±0.1% net change.

  • For a succinct description of administrative and economic costs of one popular national carbon tax design, see this same section in the CCL proposal for a Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend: Bending the Emissions Curve.

Economic impact per sector is more variable. In general, the sectors that see a notable decrease in sales are fossil fuels--as should be expected under a functional climate policy.


The work outlined in this proposal is already having an immediate impact, which will grow with support and investment in the movement behind it.

In the short term:

  1. Within 1-5 years, we expect the passage of a price on carbon--and the nation’s first carbon taxes in particular--in states such as Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, New York, Washington, Vermont, and Oregon. Creative, youth-led organizing will make carbon pricing a priority among legislators and the public. As Oregon State Senator Shields said after the 2016 session: “Our Climate has had an immense impact in the legislature, and their work has brought carbon pricing to the top of the environmental agenda in just two years. Their energetic team brings a powerful voice to the Capitol, and they have demonstrated that focused, youth-led advocacy might be just what we need to pass policy that's up to the task of stabilizing our climate.”

  2. Carbon pricing policies across the nation will prevent more pollution and deliver greater distributional equity thanks to the advocacy of young people. Paradoxically, the relative lack of resources, connections, and reputation is precisely what gives passionate young people the freedom to press for necessary change, as opposed to what is politically expedient.

  3. The campaign will focus climate policy debates at the state and national levels on comprehensive, science-based reform. A vastly greater swath and diversity of the public will have the requisite baseline education to follow the issues and participate in this conversation. Youth-driven, media-savvy campaigning will channel growing public demand to address the climate crisis into policy solutions that are up for the job.

  4. When the composition of Congress is aligned to take action on climate, Our Climate and the Put A Price on It campaign will be ready to mobilize the full extent of our resources, networks, and public reach to pass a strong and equitable federal carbon price.

In the medium term:

  1. The Put a Price on It campaign will hold the “America’s Pledge” signatories accountable for meeting the goals of the Paris Accord at subnational levels.

  2. Depending on political conditions, a patchwork of state carbon prices or a strong national policy will be driving steep emission reductions, and the clean energy economy will have been fully unleashed.

  3. Current Put A Price On It leaders will mature into positions of power across society as elected officials, agency leaders, media moguls, and executives in the business and non-profit sectors. Existing carbon pricing laws will be defended, and new ones passed, by this network of Our Climate “graduates.”

In the long term:

  1. The worst impacts of climate change will be prevented, thanks to the passage of science-based and politically popular carbon pricing policies that held us back from burning all fossil fuel reserves.

  2. Our community of activists, storytellers, entrepreneurs will continue invigorating democracy during an increasingly strained period of our nation’s history.

About the author(s)

Page Atcheson, Executive Director, Pennsylvania

Page Atcheson, Executive Director, has been a climate advocate for six years. She co-founded a statewide chapter while earning an environmental studies honors degree from the University of Vermont, and then moved to Montana to organize for the Northern Plains Resource Council. After serving as Oregon Climate's deputy director, Page managed field efforts for a statewide legislative campaign, where she recruited and coordinated a team of 30 organizations to build strong and diverse grassroots support for comprehensive climate policy. She recently returned to Our Climate to direct the organization's national expansion

Camila Thorndike, Campaign Co-Director, Washington D.C.

Camila Thorndike has been an environmental advocate and social entrepreneur for 10 years.  After graduating with honors in 2010, Camila directed outreach for a regional urban planning project in Arizona; advanced green jobs for the mayor of D.C.; worked at the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution; and co-founded COAL, a nationwide musical theater project about fossil fuels. She is a Udall Scholar, Fellow of the Center for Diversity and the Environment, Sitka Fellow, Mic50 Awardee, and member of the 2016 class of the Young Climate Leaders Network

Natalie Popovich, Board Treasurer, California

Natalie is a PhD student in Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis. Her background in environmental advocacy and transportation planning motivates her belief in the power of a carbon tax to fundamentally shift the power imbalance in our economy.  

Licia Sahagun, Development Consultant, Oregon.

Licia works with Our Climate as a development consultant, bringing 10 years of nonprofit experience to the team, as a former Board President, Executive Director, and consultant to several nonprofit organizations. She recently earned a Masters of Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law from Lewis & Clark Law School.  

Related Proposals

Our Climate partners closely with several organizations to advance carbon pricing policy.  Of the Climate CoLab proposals, Citizens Climate Lobby and Climate Toothpaste relate most to the Put A Price On It campaign, as both organizations have contributed tremendously over the past year. Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers often support our student leaders, and we've worked together to secure carbon pricing endorsements from college presidents. Climate Toothpaste has served as an effective outreach tool when recruiting new supporters and volunteers.



Komanoff, C. (2017). Carbon Tax Center Carbon Tax Spreadsheet model

Breslow, M. et al. (2014). Analysis of a Carbon Fee or Tax as a Mechanism to Reduce GHG Emissions in Massachusetts. 

Vermont Public Service Department (2014). Total Energy Study: Final Report on a Total Energy Approach to Meeting the State's Greenhouse Gas and Renewable Energy Goals. 

Portland State Northwest Economic Research Center (2014). Economic and Emission Impacts of a Clean Air Tax or Fee in Oregon. 

Mori, K. (2012). Modeling the Impact of a Carbon Tax: A Trial Analysis for Washington State. Energy Policy, 48, 627-639.

Center for Climate Strategies (2017). DC Carbon Fee-and-Rebate Policy: A Macroeconomic Analysis. 

Utility Dive (2016). New York Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Eliminate Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050