September 21, 2023

Senate Democrats Back Biden Administration’s Governmentwide Social Cost of Carbon Directive

Landmark policy to account for true costs of pollution will drive lower costs for American consumers and savings on federal disaster aid

Washington, DC – Senate Democrats are lauding the Biden Administration’s historic decision to begin requiring use of a social cost of carbon across government decision-making.  A social cost of carbon is a science-based estimate of the damages caused by each ton of carbon pollution – including property losses, increased health care costs, and other harms that come with heat waves, drought, heavy rains, sea level rise, habitat shifts, ocean warming, and acidification.

Senate Democrats released the following statements after the Biden Administration’s announcement earlier today:

“After a summer of record-breaking extreme weather events, it’s clear that the climate crisis is costing the American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that U.S. climate disasters over the last five years cost us an average of $124 billion per year,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Fortunately, the Biden Administration is doing something about it.  After enacting the largest climate and clean energy investments ever, President Biden has directed the federal government to better account for the social cost of carbon pollution across all government actions.  Whether purchasing a new fleet of U.S. Postal Service vehicles or conducting an environmental review on a major infrastructure project, factoring in the true costs of climate change into federal decision-making will help save taxpayers money and lead to investments that are better for the future of our planet—a win-win.”

“This is a very big deal.  The Biden Administration’s decision will put the full weight of federal government decisions into fighting climate change – a solution I’ve been encouraging for many years,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the leading advocate in Congress for a strong, governmentwide social cost of carbon.  “The International Monetary Fund has calculated the American government subsidy for Big Oil at $760 billion per year, none of which reflects the harm and damage the industry’s products do to the planet.  Under President Biden’s leadership, America is fighting back on behalf of taxpayers and will begin factoring the true costs of carbon pollution into a wide array of government actions, cutting back on taxpayers’ bills for climate-related disasters over the long term.  The biggest private sector companies have been doing this for years because it makes good economic sense.  By incorporating the social cost of carbon into procurement calculations, today’s action will result in economies of scale for clean energy and low-emission products, bringing down prices for consumers.”

“Factoring in the true costs of carbon pollution when the federal government is making budgeting decisions makes economic sense, and is already being done in the private sector.  I applaud the Biden Administration for taking these actions that reflect the growing realities of the costly impacts of climate change on Americans’ everyday lives.  They will rightfully improve the health of our communities and save families money—all while growing our clean energy economy,” said Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).  “I commend Senator Whitehouse for his steadfast leadership in calling for a strong social cost of carbon across for over a decade.”

“The climate crisis is the biggest emergency humanity has ever faced, and time is running out,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR).  “The administration’s decision to include social cost of carbon in government decision-making is the right move.  Scientists have been clear: New fossil fuel projects are incompatible with avoiding climate catastrophe, and a properly-implemented social cost of carbon should preclude approval of new projects that lock us into a fossil fuel future.”

“Climate change is no longer a future threat – we’re seeing the impacts every day in the form of record-shattering heatwaves, floods, wildfires and more. We need all hands on deck if we’re serious about addressing this crisis,” said Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).  “I applaud the Administration for establishing a strategy to account for costs carbon emissions can have on people’s homes and lives.  By incorporating the costs of carbon emissions into federal procurement and investment decisions, innovative, clean technologies can become more affordable to all consumers and help minimize the costs of increasingly frequent and severe climate disasters.”

“We must have honest and accurate accounting to manage the risks of climate impacts and make the investments in our clean energy economy needed to respond to the climate crisis This is not only an environmental issue – it is a public health issue, an economic issue and a national security issue,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).  “It’s important to see the Biden administration reassert the United States’ climate leadership through a social cost of carbon.”

“This is great news.  Climate change is costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year, but right now, the federal government hasn’t accounted for the real of cost carbon pollution.  This bold new action from the Biden Administration will finally give us an accurate price on carbon pollution, saving taxpayer money and spurring private-sector innovation, while fighting climate change,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“The cost of carbon and the resulting costs of climate change are felt every day in the lives and livelihoods of American families,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Climate, Clean Air, and Nuclear Safety.  “The Biden administration’s laudable decision to actually look at those costs across government agency actions will mean that those actions better reflect and respond to the challenges of climate change and the everyday struggles from extreme weather, pollution, rising sea levels, deadly heat, and other climate threats.  By considering climate costs, the federal government will make better long-term decisions and better protect American families from economic, health, environmental, and security risks.”

As of 2020, 120 major companies in the U.S. used an internal carbon price; another 144 planned to begin using one in the next two years.  Companies as diverse as Microsoft, Sony, Audi, and Swiss Re all use an internal carbon price.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921