GN’s Ann Berwick Gives Testimony at Statehouse

Environmentalists and economists packed a hearing room a the Massachusetts State House last week in support of State Senator Barrett’s Carbon Pricing Bill, S. 1747, an act combating climate change. Under the proposal, those who use the most heat or the most gasoline would pay more through a charge added to the price of those fuels. The money generated by the fees would be collected by the government and rebated back to all state residents and businesses at the year’s end.

Ann Berwick, the former chairwoman of the Department of Public Utilities and GN Board member, provided one of several testimonies stressing the drastic impacts of global warming and what they said would be moderate and positive effects of putting a cost on the emissions contributing to the climate phenomenon.

Below is the transcript of her testimony:

AGB draft 10.26.15

Berwick testimony on Barrett carbon fee bill, 10.27.15

Chairmen, members of the committee—

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Ann Berwick. I was Undersecretary for Energy and then chair of the DPU under Governor Patrick.

I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of the details of Senate 1747 from others, so I’ll use my time instead to talk a bit about the context.

First, as you know, the world has agreed in principle to a shared target of keeping global warming to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s the two-degrees Centigrade that we often hear about. Many scientists believe that even that goal is much too low.

But now let me call your attention to a new analysis released last month by Climate Interactive, an organization whose calculations are used in climate negotiations by the U.S. and other governments. The analysis evaluates the amount by which the pledges of the world’s countries thus far would collectively reduce the planet’s warming by the end of this century. Without the pledges, we would be 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer; with them fully implemented, 6.3 degrees warmer.

A frequent response you hear is, “Why should we sacrifice to address this problem? What can small”—but mighty—“Massachusetts do, when there are China and India out there, not to mention the rest of this country?”

So the second point I want to make is, it’s not necessarily a sacrifice. I’m sure you’ll hear the details from others, but British Columbia’s economy has prospered with the imposition of a carbon tax, relative to the rest of Canada.

And here’s an example of why Massachusetts has headroom for adopting a carbon fee: all of our neighboring states except for NH already have a gasoline tax that’s higher than ours. New York’s is 20 cents higher. CT’s is 15 cents higher.

And third, and finally, you may hear that a carbon fee will result in winners and losers. Inevitably, that’s correct, although the bill does a good job of minimizing that effect. But as I’m sure you recognize, the status quo also has winners and losers. And it’s not rocket science to figure out that the big status quo winners are the fossil fuel interests who take advantage of huge subsidies, first among them the extent to which our economy fails to internalize the cost of carbon.

Thank you for considering my comments, and for all the work you do on behalf of the public.