The US Congress is being asked to adopt a bill that will cap fossil fuels and make the “first sellers” of fossil fuels pay for the carbon pollution their products create, with the proceeds of carbon permit auctions to be distributed quarterly to every US citizen in the form of a “healthy climate dividend”.

The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act bill has been introduced by Maryland Democrat representative Chris Van Hollen, with a number of co-sponsors including members of congress from California, Vermont, Washington State, Arizona, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York State and Michigan.

It also has the backing of climate change campaigners including the Sierra Club and’s Bill McKibben.

“The basic idea that we own the sky, not Exxon, is a key part of the endgame in the climate debate. I’m glad it’s getting a Congressional hearing,” Mr McKibben said.

The bill also proposes CO2 emissions reductions of 20 per cent by 2020, 40 per cent by 2030, and 80 by 2050 against 2005 levels.

Congressman Van Hollen said that as the fossil fuel companies will no doubt pass the carbon tax cost onto consumers, the bill will encourage energy efficiency and energy conservation, while at the same time guaranteeing a financial return for households.

It will also, proponents believe, facilitate the shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources, leading to benefits for all citizens like cleaner air, water and land, and new jobs in both the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.

Sierra Club federal campaign director Debbie Sease said the bill would be complementary to the near-term actions set out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The bill was put before Congress on 24 February, and has now been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Ways and Means.

“Two of the most pressing challenges we face as a country are the economic and health risks of climate change and the middle class squeeze, and this bill offers a way to address both,” Mr Van Hollen said.

“This approach achieves necessary greenhouse gas reductions while boosting the purchasing power of families across the country. This bill is good for the climate, good for families, and good for the economy.”

  • Full text of the bill and supporting information can be found here