Guest columnist John Piekara: Climate advocates applaud McGovern for support of major climate bill

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks at an MLK day celebration in Northampton in 2020. Gazette file photo

Published: 2/24/2022 5:00:32 PM
Modified: 2/24/2022 5:00:10 PM

There is no better time than now to encourage elected government officials at all levels to pass effective climate legislation. Members of the Pioneer Valley chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) are thrilled that U.S Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02), has recently signed on as a cosponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307).

Rep. McGovern joins 94 House colleagues in supporting the bill, including members of the Massachusetts delegation, Seth Moulton (MA-06) and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04).

“This bill, when passed by Congress and signed into law, will be the most significant economy wide boost to our nation’s critical effort to decrease carbon emissions into the atmosphere” said Helen Seidler, a member of CLL’s local Pioneer Valley Chapter. “In addition, it will put us into a global leadership position to encourage other countries to pass similar legislation.”

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is one of the most robust pieces of climate legislation on the table in Congress. It will put a fee on carbon emitting fossil fuels when they first enter the economy and allocate that revenue to Americans as a monthly dividend or “carbon cash back” payment.

This approach could also be incorporated into the final version of the Build Back Better bill that is expected to come to Congress this year. The ultimate impact of a price on carbon pollution is to make it attractive to households and businesses to switch from using fossil fuels to using renewable non-polluting energy sources to power our lives and our economy.

A carbon tax becomes affordable for ordinary Americans when the money collected from fossil fuel companies is given as a dividend, or “carbon cash back” payment, to every American to spend with no restrictions. This protects low- and-middle-income Americans who otherwise might not be able to afford the transition.

The bill, either as a stand-alone or part of a larger legislative package, is expected to drive down America’s carbon pollution by at least 30% in the first five years and put us on a path to net-zero by 2050. As it does so, it will also improve health and save lives by reducing the pollution that Americans breathe. It will boost the economy by spurring clean energy innovation and job growth.

And, importantly, it is a necessary component of any successful strategy to meet the Biden administration’s goal of a 50% reduction in the level of 2005 carbon emissions by 2030. Meeting this goal, we are told by climate scientists, is critical if we are to avoid the worst future consequences of the warming of our planet.

“As chair of the House Rules Committee, Rep. McGovern’s leadership on this bill is particularly meaningful.” said John Kinchla, a CCL volunteer from Hadley and owner of Amherst Nurseries. “I am excited about the economic possibilities that the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will generate for many businesses in Western Mass, and want to thank Rep. McGovern for his sponsorship.”

Pioneer Valley CCL members have met with Rep. McGovern and his aides many times over the last five years in both Northampton and Washington, D.C. Members have also organized many phone calls and constituent letters to the office about climate change and the need for solutions.

“Congressman Jim McGovern has always been a great champion of food security, and I’m really grateful he’s making climate a priority too,” says Andrew Donson, Group Leader of the Pioneer Valley CCL Chapter. “I really appreciate that, in supporting carbon-fee and dividend, Congressman McGovern shows his commitment to legislation that is efficient, transparent, and equitable.”

The benefits of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution cannot be overstated. We all have a present and future stake in cleaner air, cleaner water, healthy soils and healthy wildlife. Reducing pollution from burning fossil fuels can bring us these benefits. Importantly, modern life can continue to offer its comforts and conveniences powered by renewable wind, solar, tidal and most likely small-scale nuclear energy.

There is also a fundamental justice component to transitioning from fossil to renewable energy. Communities that have borne the brunt of environmental degradation from polluting factories and industrial processes absolutely deserve relief and redress from decades of suffering. Any future policies and legislation dealing with climate must factor in the benefit to frontline communities that have coexisted with pollution.

Current policymakers and voters owe it to future generations to protect the environment that sustains life and to steer us away from the local effects of extreme temperatures, extreme precipitation or drought, and extreme storm activity that disrupt our lives and our economy. Congressman McGovern’s continued attention and support of effective climate policy is appreciated.

John Piekara is a member of the Pioneer Valley Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a national nonprofit organization with local chapters across the country.  To learn more about their work, visit


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