A conservative climate plan will build on personal responsibility while reducing emissions

A conservative climate plan will build on personal responsibility while reducing emissions
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The 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), happening this week, is the most important gathering of American conservatives in the nation. This year’s agenda includes media personalities from Fox News, Real Clear Politics and the Wall Street Journal. Advocacy groups addressing issues from 2nd Amendment rights to health care will be there, as well as Republican elected officials, including Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  Pence attends sermon where bishop says 'demonic spirit' is behind homosexual attraction Mike Pence invoked a racist president and a scoundrel senator to defend Trump — did he even know it? MORE and President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE.

One undercurrent runs through much of CPAC’s programming: the idea of personal responsibility. We’re responsible for our own well-being, taking good care of our families and our communities. We’re responsible for our actions, and any consequences of those actions. Personal responsibility is something I believe deeply in — in fact, it’s one of the tenets that makes me a member of the Republican Party. 

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But my party and my country are being deeply irresponsible right now with our greenhouse gas emissions. We are allowing free, open disposal of our waste, our carbon pollution, into the atmosphere — and it’s changing our climate. It is critical for conservative thought leaders like those at CPAC to help set a responsible path forward to the clean energy economy of the future.

Recent weeks have been dominated by discussions of the Green New Deal, and conservatives have seen challenges from those on the left to essentially “put up or shut up” on clean energy and climate legislation. That gauntlet has been thrown down with a scoff — they don’t believe we’re willing or able to come to the table on climate issues.

But we are seeing shifts and anomalies like the floods in Texas and the Carolinas, and the wildfires in California. We’ve heard military leaders and defense experts caution against the national security threat of climate change. We’ve heard elected Republicans, like Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 Republicans offer details on environmental proposals after Democrats roll out plan MORE (R-Ore.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonThe rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 The Memo: Impeachment's scars cut deep with Trump, say those who know him Hillary Clinton defends Dingell as 'everything that Trump is not' MORE (R-Mich.), and John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusRepublicans eye legislation to rival Democrats' sweeping climate plan Overnight Energy: House passes sweeping bill on 'forever chemicals' | Green groups question Pentagon about burning of toxic chemicals | Steyer plan would open US to climate refugees House passes sweeping bill to target spread of toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (R-Ill.), who wrote in a recent op-ed, “Climate change is real, and as Republican Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we are focused on solutions. A serious, solutions-oriented discussion about how to address this challenge, while protecting the interests of the American people, our communities, and our country’s economic well-being is fundamental to getting this right.”

We know it’s time for something to be done. So, what’s our plan?

A conservative climate plan will not look like the Green New Deal. It will build on personal choice and personal responsibility while reducing emissions and adding jobs. A conservative climate plan can also attract bipartisan support, which is absolutely crucial to any legislation that hopes to move through Congress.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is a plan consistent with conservative principles of choice and responsibility. Originally introduced by Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  Bipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel MORE (D-Fla.) and Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis Rooney2 Democrats say they voted against war powers resolution 'because it merely restated existing law' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi plans to send impeachment articles next week NY Times's Haberman: Trump 'surprised' Iranian strike wasn't 'more of a unifying event' MORE (R-Fla.), this bipartisan bill would put a price on carbon pollution, encouraging our whole economy to be responsible for our emissions. The bill would also allocate the revenue to Americans as a monthly carbon dividend, putting fiscal responsibility in the hands of individual people, rather than the federal government. At the same time, this policy will drive carbon emissions down at least 40 percent in the first 12 years, improving health outcomes and boosting job growth in local communities across the country.

Recently, the chairs of the Council for Economic Advisors for Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 published a joint statement endorsing this “fee and dividend” style of climate plan. With more than 3,000 other economists, they stated, “By correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.” A plan like this is not a heavy-handed government-centered approach — it’s an effective, market-based solution that creates a way forward for conservatives on climate and energy policy.

Let’s seize this opportunity. Conservatives shouldn’t shy away from the big problems, nor should we consider the discussion finished simply because of the Green New Deal. We should recognize that conservative-friendly solutions like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act are out there, and we should work hard to bring them to center stage by discussing them at CPAC, on the campaign trail, and everywhere in between. For the health and future of our party and our country, it’s the responsible thing to do.

Jim Tolbert is conservative outreach director for Citizens' Climate Lobby.