If you want to know how much a congressional bill is going to cost, you take it to the Congressional Budget Office to figure it out. If you want to know the climate effects, there’s nothing similar — until now, Ben writes.

🗞️Driving the news: Resources for the Future (RFF), a respected nonpartisan think tank, just launched the Carbon Scoring Project.

  • It will “provide policymakers with quantitative and qualitative climate information about their bills, reported in a standardized and accessible format.”

Why it matters: This kind of inside baseball has real-world consequences. More, faster and transparent analysis about how bills would affect U.S. progress toward its climate goals is needed, backers say.

  • And emissions are influenced by a lot more than legislation explicitly about energy or climate.
  • Farm, highway and transportation, defense and many other policies are in the mix.

How it works: The RFF team will estimate various bills’ effects on greenhouse gases, consumer prices, equity, power generation, and more.

  • The first step is creating a baseline, using analysis of the new climate law, to compare new legislation against. They’ll begin with climate bills and then branch out.
  • “We expect future scores to be dependent on interest from lawmakers and the broader needs of the policymaking community,” Kevin Rennert, who directs RFF’s federal climate policy work, said via email.

🔭 Zoom out: To be clear, there’s hardly an information vacuum now. RFF itself has long been modeling legislation.

  • More broadly, various companies and groups — some with an advocacy bent one way or the other, some not — perform climate analyses of major bills.

Yes, but: Backers of carbon scores, an idea batted around in wonk circles for a while, say there are gaps and limitations and that a standardized system is needed.

  • 2022 Brookings Institution post notes the current “assortment of models” use a patchwork of assumptions and create “challenges for communication and consistency.”

The intrigue: Those Brookings analysts say a nonpartisan and independent federal entity should take a leading role in scoring the climate impacts of legislation.

The Congressional Budget Office would be a “logical landing place.”

Rennert said the RFF project is a test bed. “We’re looking to demonstrate what it could look like for the government to have that capacity in-house and use it systematically in a standardized way.”

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