As a 14 year old, I am told that, “change starts with you.” In health class, we’re taught that if you’re healthy, you influence your family’s health. Then your family can influence your friends’ and neighbors’ health for the better. Most kids don’t pay attention during class — I agree it is boring. But there’s one thing I’ve learned from sitting through the long hours that is actually true!
As Americans, we each have different changes we want to make. This can make it hard to influence others. But when something matters to all Americans, the “change” can be made easier. And most Americans can agree on wanting better lives, a stronger economy and American success.
Many of these things are mostly controlled by the government and other worldwide events. However, we can still see their effects and care about them. We can actually influence some of them.
One example of worldwide change is the European Union’s (EU) carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). This is targeted to start in 2023. What it will do is make other countries who are exporting to the EU have to pay a tariff. This tariff will be determined by the amount of carbon emitted in the making of the product. The more carbon emitted in the production of exports, the more money American businesses are going to have to pay Europe.
Since the US already has cleaner manufacturing than other countries like China and India, we’ll be paying less than them. We’ll also be doing well because companies will want to move here, encouraging economic growth. But there is a way for America to have more success.
If we imposed our own CBAM, we would be level with the EU. China and others would have to pay us for their exports to us. There is also another big way our country would benefit. With other countries incentivized to emit less carbon, there would be a cleaner world with less pollution. This would save American lives, and help slow climate change.
This is just one example of legislation that could be passed, and it’s legislation that can have bipartisan support. Enforcing a CBAM is consistent with conservative values — it’s not growing the government or creating more regulations. Instead, we would be helping create a cleaner Earth while holding other countries accountable.
While this will create positive changes throughout the world by lowering greenhouse gasses, the change starts locally. When ordinary citizens want change, they can influence their policy-makers.
This spring, Three Rivers Union School District passed a climate resolution. This document stresses the importance of taking actions to help the Earth that aren’t politically aligned. It points out that rising carbon emissions contribute to California’s diminishing snowpack, which affects California’s agricultural economy. But it also acknowledges that there are many solutions.
When elected officials hear from their communities, they are likely to care about those issues. In fact, my congressman, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, recently introduced a new bipartisan bill dedicated to saving sequoia trees.
My boring health class was right: you can influence the world. Starting with your friends and neighbors, and even the government. Whether you’re lobbying through an organization like Citizens’ Climate Lobby or talking to your community, you can be a catalyst to help America succeed.
Anna Villavicencio is a ninth grader at Woodlake High School. She is a member of the Youth Action Team of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. She and her school club Ecopact were recently featured in the documentary Kaweah Kweens .