The student body presidents of Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and eight other colleges and universities throughout the state endorsed a climate dividends plan on Thursday and called on Utah’s congressional delegation to support it.

In a letter sent to members of Utah’s delegation, 10 student body presidents representing over 180,000 students asked for the federal lawmakers’ “leadership on advancing the bipartisan climate solution known as carbon dividends” and said that climate change “is quickly becoming the paramount issue for our generation.”

The carbon dividends plan was introduced in 2017 by the conservative Climate Leadership Council as a way to improve air quality by gradually increasing taxes on carbon dioxide emissions. The plan calls for the tax proceeds to “be returned to all the American people on an equal and monthly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts.”

Additionally, the plan calls for “border adjustments for the carbon content of both imports and exports,” arguing that this “would protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations, encouraging them to adopt carbon pricing of their own.”

Finally, the plan calls for “the elimination of regulations that are no longer necessary upon the enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popularity of dividends.”

In the letter, which was signed by BYU Student Association President Spring Cullen and UVU Student Body President Danielle Corbet, the student body presidents argue that the carbon dividends plan “has the power to unify all Americans around lasting climate progress,” noting that it “works through markets to slash U.S. carbon emissions by more than half by 2035” and “provides certainty, streamlines regulations and enhances American competitiveness.”

“We are convinced that America will never solve this problem while the climate debate remains mired in divisiveness,” they wrote. “With so much at stake for our generation, it’s time for our elected leaders to forge consensus around solutions that both parties can support.”

Speaking specifically to Utah, the student body presidents note that “this plan offers a way to safeguard our pristine landscapes, protect our natural resources and position our clean tech industry to thrive,” adding that “most important(ly), it will preserve our way of life for our children and grandchildren.”

“What this plan needs now are champions in Congress who can shepherd it to successful passage,” they wrote in a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “You have been a strong voice on climate in the Republican Party. With your business expertise, principled approach and credibility with both sides of the aisle, you can play a unique role in uniting your colleagues behind this permanent climate solution.”

In a written statement, UVU’s Corbet said “we have been proud to see our Congressional leaders, like Senator Mitt Romney, highlight the importance of climate change to our country’s security and prosperity.”

“Now is the time to coalesce around a concrete plan that will get the job done,” the student body president said.

The other student body presidents who signed the letter include those at Weber State University, the University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah State University Eastern, Westminster College, Southern Utah University, Snow College and Salt Lake Community College.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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