Swarthmore Carbon Charge Initiative

Why a Carbon Charge? 

We believe that climate change poses the single greatest threat to human well being that we will face in our lifetimes, and many economists believe that widespread carbon pricing would make a massive difference in mitigating that threat. We're excited to announce that Swarthmore will be implementing an internal Carbon Charge, which we hope can be scaled to other institutions of higher education and can help build momentum for national or global implementation of a carbon pricing policy. 

What is the Carbon Charge?

The carbon charge will consist of three components: 

  1. School-wide charge on departments for their carbon emissions
  2. Spending revenues from that charge on renewables, efficiency, metering, and education projects
  3. A shadow price used to motivate less carbon-intensive construction projects

How did the Carbon Charge come to be? 

The idea for a carbon charge grew out of a reading group of Swarthmore faculty and staff focusing on carbon pricing in the summer of 2015. The reading group developed an initial proposal for a carbon charge, modeled after similar programs at institutions like Yale University and Princeton University, and based on recommendations from Vassar and Stanford faculty and staff. The proposal was subsequently refined and revised in discussions with senior staff, community members, the Sustainability Committee and the Social Responsibility Committee of the Board of Managers in order to tailor this approach to the Swarthmore community.

Read the final draft of the proposal.

As a result of this consultative process, the Board of Managers approved a 2016-17 fiscal year budget that included a $300,000 budget item for the carbon charge, which will take the form of a small deduction in the budget of each department in the school.

Nathaniel Graf '16 was hired this summer as the Climate Action Senior Fellow to implement the Carbon Charge. Two students in the President's Sustainability Research Fellowship will also begin work on the Carbon Charge in the fall semester. 


Reach out to us with any questions, comments, feedback or concerns at sustainability@swarthmore.edu

Along with the Carbon Charge itself, this website is also a work in progress. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for content that would be helpful to you on the website.