While the Green New Deal has become a rallying cry among Democratic presidential hopefuls, Republicans are rightfully critical that it would massively expand the role of government, pick winners and losers and cost tens of trillions of dollars in new federal spending. But if we learned anything from the failed repeal of ObamaCare, Republicans should remember that being critical isn’t enough. The GOP must take this opportunity to now advance a realistic solution and retake the climate debate.
We are witnessing a noticeable shift in tone among Republicans, with more GOP members of Congress acknowledging that there is a serious climate problem and that action is warranted. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, have said that “climate change is real” and have called for solutions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) says he believes in human-caused climate change. These are encouraging steps, reflecting the increasing climate concern among voters.
More than 80 percent of voters – including 64 percent of Republican voters – want the government to do more to reduce carbon emissions. Among millennials, soon to be the largest voting cohort, climate concern is even greater. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 63 percent of adults say the GOP's positions on climate change are outside the mainstream. Clearly, voters want a plan to modernize our economy, encourage innovation, and reestablish the United States as the leader in next-generation clean energy technologies.
Fortunately, Republican statesmen James Baker and George Shultz have set forth a free-market climate solution that Republican voters can rally behind. Under the proposal, companies would be charged for their carbon emissions, and all revenue would be rebated directly to Americans through quarterly cash dividends. This solution would reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way by harnessing the power of American competitiveness and innovation and help the majority of Americans get ahead.
On every metric, this carbon dividends approach is superior to the green new deal. Where the green new deal calls for a massive expansion of the role of government, a carbon dividends plan is market-based and could even reduce the size of government. Where the green new deal would have the government pick winners and losers, this alternative would rely on price incentives to steer us towards a low carbon economy. And where the green new deal would require a dramatic increase in taxes and deficits, the carbon dividends solution would be self-funded and revenue-neutral.
A market-based approach would also be better for American companies. Rather than face strict, one-size-fits-all regulations, businesses would be free to make individual decisions on how to reduce emissions at the lowest cost. This would harness the power of the free market and the ingenuity of American entrepreneurs to transition us toward the clean energy technologies of the future. No other tool can rival the power and speed of a price on carbon in spurring innovation and reducing emissions.
Republicans should also welcome the deregulatory nature of this plan. With emissions falling due to a rising price on carbon, many current carbon regulations would no longer be necessary and could be phased out. This would lower compliance costs on businesses and give them the regulatory certainty they need to make long-term, clean-energy investments.
This plan will also promote American competitiveness by forcing large emitters like China and India to pay a fee based on the carbon content of the products they export to the U.S. This will level the playing field and boost the competitiveness of more efficient U.S. manufacturers. It will also help onshore the clean jobs of the future.
Perhaps most importantly, the majority of American families will be financially better off under a carbon dividends plan, according to an analysis by the Department of Treasury. The average family of four, for example, would receive about $2,000 in carbon dividends in the first year, with that amount increasing in years following. Rather than the government deciding on how this revenue should be spent, every American household will be empowered to decide for themselves.
The largest and most diverse climate coalition in U.S. history, including leading companies and environmental organizations, is working together to develop the details of this plan. A majority of voters, including a majority of Republican voters, support it, according to our recent polling. In addition, the largest number of economists in history recently came out in support of carbon dividends as the most cost-effective climate solution.
By embracing carbon dividends, Republicans can turn the tables on Democrats and become the champions of a breakthrough solution that is pro-environment, pro-growth, pro-innovation, pro-worker and pro-family.
Mr. Costello is managing director of Americans for Carbon Dividends. He served as a Republican representative from Pennsylvania, 2015-19.