Resources for the Future Introduces Project to Measure Carbon Effects of Proposed Legislation

Today, researchers at Resources for the Future (RFF) are debuting the Carbon Scoring Project—an independent policy effort that will routinely and consistently “score” the effects of proposed US legislation for the benefit of policymakers.


March 16, 2023

News Type

Press Release

What’s the story? 

Today, researchers at Resources for the Future (RFF) are debuting the Carbon Scoring Project—an independent policy effort that will routinely and consistently “score” the effects of proposed US legislation for the benefit of policymakers. Through modeling and analysis, the RFF team will estimate a bill’s effects on emissions, as well as costs, consumer prices, equity, electricity generation, and more to chart progress toward a net-zero economy.

“This new project builds on RFF’s tradition of providing the timely, trusted, and transparent information that we need on a federal level. The next decade will be critical for decarbonizing the global economy, and policymakers need to fully understand the real-world effects of proposed legislation to keep the United States on track to do its part.”

—Kevin Rennert, Fellow and Director of RFF’s Federal Climate Policy Program

Why is this happening?

When Congress considers proposed legislation, it understands the effects of its proposals on the federal budget through publicly available “budget scores” provided by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. However, the federal government has no similar process to measure the effects of proposals on carbon emissions. For example, after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in August 2022, the federal government did not release its estimates of the act’s climate impacts until well after it was signed into law. In the meantime, non-governmental organizations—like RFF—provided that information to decisionmakers and the public. 

Having access to consistent and unbiased information about the effects of congressional action on the climate will be needed for policymakers to stay on track to decarbonize the economy. 

To make sure this information gap is consistently filled, RFF researchers involved with the Carbon Scoring Project will work closely with policymakers to ensure that they can incorporate climate impacts into their decisionmaking from the get-go.  

How are we doing this?

Building on existing RFF models and expanding partnerships, the research team will provide policymakers quantitative and qualitative climate information about their bills, reported in a standardized and accessible format. Transparency is at the heart of this work: all source code and assumptions for the models used in the Carbon Scoring Project will be fully available to the public. 

The team’s first step will be to provide a baseline, reported in the new format, that will serve as a comparison point for future analyses. This baseline will detail the Inflation Reduction Act’s economy-wide effects on carbon emissions, as the act significantly changed the emissions trajectory of the United States. 

The project is funded by The Carbon Zero Project, which focuses on accelerating the world’s achievement of rapid decarbonization.

“The need for independent and accurate information about emissions has never been greater. RFF has great modeling capabilities, and using models in this way has the potential to really make a difference in the way that we assess the impact of legislation.”  

—Aaron Bergman, Fellow

Whats the plan for the future?

While the Carbon Scoring Project will focus on climate-specific legislation for the time being, future analyses will cover the climate impacts of bills that are not directly related to climate and energy issues. The metrics and analyses created by the RFF team could be used to measure the climate impacts of legislation related to highways, agriculture, and the National Defense Authorization Act.  

Where can I learn more?

You can learn more about the Carbon Scoring Project by visiting the RFF website and reading the related blog post by RFF Fellows Aaron Bergman and Kevin Rennert. Watch this space over the coming months for analysis and commentary as we embark on this new project. 

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

For more information, please see our media resources page or contact Media Relations and Communications Specialist Annie McDarris.

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