PROVE IT Act benefits Delaware. Here's how
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PROVE IT Act benefits Delaware. Here's how

Jul 29, 2023

Reports of the demise of bipartisanship are apparently greatly exaggerated. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are backing a new bill that begins to address today’s ongoing climate challenges while helping American businesses compete in the global market.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, the PROVE IT Act — Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency Act of 2023 — will help ensure that American workers and manufacturers get credit for our efficient, low-carbon manufacturing processes while encouraging countries around the world who trade with the U.S. to adopt a common set of emission reporting standards for traded industrial goods.

The PROVE IT Act calls for the U.S. Department of Energy to measure the carbon intensity of various products — that is, how much carbon is emitted to the atmosphere by manufacturing these products — both at home and abroad. This would enable the department to track the emissions of key industries and determine which countries are the worst carbon offenders.

The bill is an essential precursor to a U.S. carbon border adjustment mechanism. The European Union, one of our largest trading partners, plans to put such a law into effect in October. The EU’s CBAM will require manufacturers shipping certain goods to the EU, including those shipped from the U.S., to meet the same carbon emission standards as those produced in the EU or pay a fee based on the product’s carbon intensity. Other countries will likely follow the EU’s lead.

U.S. manufacturers that have already adopted energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources, and stringent emissions standards will have a competitive edge in an international marketplace governed by CBAMs. Overseas competitors that have relied on cheaper but dirtier fuels and processes would be less able to undercut the prices of our products.

Such laws also eliminate the advantage that manufacturers gain through offshoring manufacturing activity to a country with lax environmental laws. Due to CBAMs, companies would pay more to bring the finished goods back into their own country than they gained by out-of-country manufacture. As a result, manufacturing jobs are more likely to be retained at home.

Furthermore, CBAMs hold the potential to encourage other nations to reduce their industrial emissions to avoid paying carbon border tariffs. High-emitting countries like China will soon find that it’s better to use their funds to improve energy efficiency and adopt cleaner energy sources than to pay other countries for the privilege of exporting carbon-intense goods.

A U.S. CBAM would benefit America’s relatively carbon-efficient industries and encourage more manufacturers to follow suit. But you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and the PROVE IT Act seeks to remedy this. By authorizing the systematic measurement of the emissions involved in manufacturing goods such as steel, cement or fertilizer, the bill represents a crucial first step toward a world in which all countries are working equally to reduce their climate-disrupting emissions.

We need more such bipartisan efforts to address the climate disruptions impacting our lives this summer with unhealthy smoke-filled air, record-setting heat waves, unprecedented ocean temperatures, and flood-inducing downpours. If passed, the PROVE IT Act may very well prove that it can still be done.

Peggy Schultz, Beth Chajes, Marty Hopkins, Charlie Garlow and Phil Smith are members of the Delaware Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.