Students Organizing Around Carbon Pricing

Students Organizing Around Carbon Pricing

Over the last year, students have been organizing and lobbying across the United States around carbon pricing. While the climate crisis can seem intimidating to the generation that will face its most significant impacts, young leaders are uniting to pass strong policies through the Put A Price On It campaign.

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The campaign launched a year ago after students at the Claremont Colleges teamed up with the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously and the non-profit Our Climate to build a movement of young folks focused on solutions. Our Climate Executive Director Page Atcheson said “students who tired of hearing ‘no’ and ready to stand up for a positive movement are driving the momentum for bold and equitable policy”.

Put A Price On It is emphasizing the importance of both organizing a diverse coalition and directly lobbying for legislation. To do this, the campaign has a student program that includes field representatives, fellows, and a millennial advocacy board. Field representatives are student leaders ready to contribute whether they are familiar with carbon pricing or just getting started. Instead of telling these students exactly how they should be organizing, the campaign builds a strong relationship with each student and works to determine how they can be most effective and feel most fulfilled. A step beyond field representatives, fellows are selected each fall, spring, and summer through an application process and receive more hands-on training and support. Many field representatives often get a taste of organizing and then become fellows. Finally, the millennial advocacy board and corresponding committees serve to support students who simply do not have as much time. Young leaders can be plugged into a policy, communications, development, and programming committee to continue to support Put A Price On It.

These students are amplifying their voice to support federal, state and local policies. The organizing often begins on campus and elevates to lobbying elected officials. For example, starting at the Claremont Colleges and now being duplicated across the country at colleges such as Fordham and American University, Put A Price On It leaders mimic the coalition building necessary to pass bold legislation. They talk to collegiate social justice, economic, political, and environmental groups seeking their endorsement and then present the coalition to their college president in hope of an endorsement. While this may seem symbolic in nature, the process gives students the experience organizing a diverse set of stakeholders and making the case for carbon pricing. While many organize politically, others promote their support through art, media, and other creative projects.

In addition to on campus work, many leaders become directly involved in policy campaigns. In Oregon, New York, Washington, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, students are supporting state campaigns. In DC, field representatives from American University are teaming up with the Chesapeake Climate Action Campaign to secure endorsements from local colleges that are key to pushing legislation forward. In New York, fellows at Fordham, NYU, and others are strongly incorporating environmental justice and business input into the discussion. In Massachusetts, several students joined together and testified in favor of carbon pricing legislation to support clean air and clean jobs at a spring lobby day.

Put A Price On It student leaders are plugging into local, state, and federal campaigns to bring a positive, practical, and powerful approach to policy making. They recognize that this is their future and cultivating a ‘yes’ campaign is the way to maximize the climate opportunity we face today.

Tom Erb, National Field Organizer, Our Climate / Put A Price On It


Tom is the National Field Organizer for Our Climate and the Project Manager at the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project. He is a Senior at Pomona College and studies Public Policy Analysis and Politics. Prior to joining the these groups, Erb was the Congressional Liaison for the #4Billion4Us campaign, a communications intern for Congressman Eric Swalwell, a climate intern for United States Senator Brian Schatz, and the Co-President of a carbon pricing campaign at the Claremont Colleges. This summer he was also a field intern for Congressman Scott Peters. He has spoken on behalf of climate activism in the National Geographic Documentary Series Years of Living Dangerously, at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and at the World Bank Digital Media Zone. In April of 2017, he was the Youth Spokesman at the World Bank's Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition's High Level Assembly. He is originally from Poway, CA.