With Democrats controlling the House, a bipartisan climate solution is possible

With Democrats controlling the House, a bipartisan climate solution is possible
© Greg Nash

As the dust settles from the midterm election to reveal a new political landscape in Washington, hope emerges that congressional action to rein in climate change may finally find traction after a decade-long drought.

Come January, Democrats will control the agenda in the House of Representatives, and some of them are eager to bring carbon pricing legislation to the table. As reported in The Hill last month, Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchBipartisan group of lawmakers invites colleagues to tour DC's Holocaust museum GOP senator presses Instagram, Facebook over alleged bias in content recommendations Overnight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command MORE (D-Fla.) is expected to push for a carbon fee bill. “The House has an opportunity to move something forward — hopefully with bipartisan support — that the president would then have to respond to,” Deutch said.

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How the president responds depends largely on whether a bill attracts Republican support, and Deutch has cause for optimism on that front. As co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus, which has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, Deutch has seen this group of strange bedfellows grow from a dozen members to 90 in just two years. The Berlin Wall dividing the two parties on this issue is crumbling. There are now dozens of Republicans who acknowledge the existence of human-caused climate change, and they are willing to seek the common ground on solutions.

So where is that common ground?

The solution that finds support across the political spectrum is Carbon Fee and Dividend, whereby a steadily rising fee is assessed on the heat-trapping emissions released from fossil fuels. In order to protect Americans from rising costs associated with the fee, all revenue is returned to households as monthly payments.

The third component of this plan is a border carbon adjustment on imports from nations that lack an equivalent carbon price, which would shield American businesses from unfair foreign competition and discourage U.S. companies from “offshoring” their carbon emissions. 

From a conservative standpoint, there is much to like about this policy:

  • It relies on the market rather than government regulations to achieve its objective.
  • It’s revenue-neutral, which means it will not increase the size of government.
  • It will put money in people’s pockets, grow the economy and add jobs.
  • It provides the incentive for other nations to follow our lead and implement carbon pricing policies of their own.

What are the chances that Republicans will get behind a carbon pricing bill? Well, three of them, all members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, sponsored a bill to do just that. Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDemocratic lawmaker pushes back on Castro's call to repeal law making illegal border crossings a crime The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R-Fla.), co-chairman of the caucus, introduced the MARKET CHOICE Act this past summer, which would apply a fee on carbon and use the revenue to fund infrastructure projects. Joining him as co-sponsors were Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickTrump primary challenger Bill Weld responds to rally chants: 'We are in a fight for the soul of the GOP' Democratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' Poll shows congresswomen attacked by Trump with weak favorability ratings MORE (R-Pa.) and Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Appeals court appears skeptical of upholding ObamaCare mandate | Drug pricing deal faces GOP pushback | Trump officials look for plan B after court strikes drug TV ad rule Trump officials seek plan B on drug pricing rule MORE (R-Fla.). Although Curbelo lost his seat in a tight race last night, Fitzpatrick and Rooney are returning to the House, and addressing climate change is a priority for both.

The imperative to act now couldn’t be clearer. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned that we have little more than a decade to take the “unprecedented” actions needed to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change. Waiting around for a new president and a Democratic Senate in 2021 — outcomes that are by no means guaranteed — kicks the can down an ever-shortening road.

Momentum for carbon pricing got a boost last month when Canada announced that a carbon fee and dividend system will be implemented in provinces that cover nearly half that nation’s population. With federal elections coming up next year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is betting that pricing carbon will be a political winner if Canadians get a check in the mail.

We’re making that bet, too. We must set the table going into the 116th Congress by encouraging lawmakers to introduce and pass bipartisan legislation for Carbon Fee and Dividend. Bipartisanship is the best path forward to effective and enduring climate legislation, and I have faith a significant number of Republicans will come around to support such legislation in the new Congress.

In the end, the real solution to climate change is democracy, and with more and more citizens telling their members of Congress that delay is not an option, a viable solution to the climate crisis is now within reach.

Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

This piece has been updated.