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The Carbon Charge to Departments


Schematic diagram of the charge to departments in FY 18. A total levy was calculated by multiplying the college’s emissions by the social cost of carbon. That was paid for with a combination of a 1.25% levy on all departments and voluntary additional contributions. The fund supports emissions reduction and engagement projects.


In order to make the real costs of carbon emissions visible, to foster a sense of collective responsibility for mitigating climate change, and to generate revenue for sustainability projects, the school levies a carbon charge on each department for the costs of Swarthmore's annual carbon emissions. 

In 2015, Swarthmore was responsible for approximately 12,500 metric tons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas from our heat generation and electric purchasing. The Board of Managers approved an annual charge of $300,000, which is levied on each office and department as a flat percentage of their total budgets, excluding salaries and benefits. Every office and department receives an additional allocation to cover the full expense of the charge. Additionally, a number of office and departments generously contributed an additional $33,000 to the Carbon Charge, bringing our campus charge close to the EPA’s estimate of the social cost of carbon figure and providing us with greater resources to undertake emissions reductions projects.  

We expect that the carbon charge will increase in future years, to more closely align our charge with rising social costs of carbon, but we hope that the impact on college budgets will be counterbalanced by reductions in the college's emissions.

The Carbon Charge Committee is responsible for making decisions about the use of the revenue, changes in the estimated social cost of carbon that we use as the basis to set our carbon charge, and changes in the mechanisms by which department's carbon responsibility is assessed and paid.