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Swarthmore Carbon Charge Program

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 that carbon pricing has a critical role in any national or global plan to mitigate that threat. Swarthmore established its internal Carbon Charge in 2016 with four primary goals:

  • Provide a platform to educate and engage the community with carbon pricing solutions
  • Incentivize reductions in Swarthmore’s emissions
  • Provide capital for projects that reduce our emissions
  • Build momentum for state, national, and global implementation of carbon pricing

What is the Carbon Charge?

The Carbon Charge program seeks to educate and engage communities on carbon pricing, on and off campus. 

At home, Swarthmore's internal Carbon Charge consists of three components: 

  1. School-wide levy on departments for college carbon emissions
  2. Use of the revenues from that charge to support renewables, efficiency, metering, and education projects.
  3. A shadow price to motivate less carbon-intensive construction projects

Beyond Swarthmore's campus, we're also working on: 

  1. Educating about carbon pricing policy solutions
  2. Engaging with other institutions about internal carbon pricing programs
  3. Lending Swarthmore's public voice to supporting a price on carbon 


This Prezi gives a more detailed overview of Swarthmore's Carbon Charge Program: 


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 that 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.

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 took the form of a small deduction in the budget of each department in the school.  Swarthmore, along with Yale and Vassar, was one of the first institutions of higher learning to implement internal carbon pricing.

The Carbon Charge Committee convened in September of 2016 to manage the Carbon Charge. Nathaniel Graf ‘16 is supporting that work in their role as Climate Action Senior Fellow. Nicholas DiMaio ‘19 is the 2017-18 President’s Sustainability Research Fellow on Climate Protection and Carbon Pricing.

International Sustainable Campus Network Award

Swarthmore was honored to receive a 2017 Sustainable Campus Excellence Award in the Innovative Collaboration category from ISCN for our Carbon Charge program.


Reach out to us with any questions, comments, feedback or concerns at

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.