Yale Imposes Carbon Fee On Its Own Buildings

REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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Yale University announced it is beginning penalize campus buildings and departments that emit too much carbon dioxide.

Yale said it is the first university to implement such a carbon fee. The fee will be $40 per ton of carbon.

If a building manages to reduce its carbon footprint at a rate that is greater than what the university achieves, then that building is rewarded with money from the carbon fund. If a building fails to reduce its carbon footprint, it must contribute to the carbon fund. Presumably, the money would be added or taken away from the departments that work in those buildings. More than 250 buildings will be affected, the university said.

It came to the decision after three years “of study, discussion and experimentation.”

Although the carbon tax took effect on July 1, those “administrative units” subject to the charge will get their first bills at the end of September.

“As the first university to pilot-test a carbon charge program and the first university member of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, Yale is serving as a model for other communities and organizations,” said Yale’s president, Peter Salovey. “Yale’s carbon charge program is an important example of our commitment to curbing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it shows that research, scholarship, and teaching are at the heart of Yale’s environmental efforts.”

Salovey has been planning this since 2014 when he mandated six “sustainability initiatives” for Yale, one of which was a carbon fee, based on the “social cost of carbon,” something the Obama administration at the time set a $40 per ton of carbon dioxide. Then he initiated a pilot program at 20 campus buildings to see how best to reduce carbon.

“The pilot was a success,” according to Casey Pickett, director of the Carbon Charge initiative, because “it showed a charge is feasible.”

Yale ended up favoring one of its carbon-reducing methods, which it calls “revenue neutral.”

“This approach keeps the net amount that each unit is charged relatively small, while also, on the margin, giving everyone an incentive of nearly the full social cost of carbon,” Pickett said.

It will also keep students bundled up for the winter. Yale provides some helpful hints on how buildings can pull their environmental weight by “turning down heat and air conditioning when not in use” and “managing personal comfort through dress than personal heaters.

The directive also advises students and staff about “using lights only when necessary.”

Yale says it will be “carbon neutral” by 2050.

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