House Republicans deliver a commonsense climate plan
This week, House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), rolled out an ambitious climate change platform. It includes more than 30 bills to increase innovation, modernize energy infrastructure and promote natural climate solutions. The move sent a clear message: Republicans are ready to act on climate and they have the right policies to do so.
While the platform may come as a surprise to many, given the climate skepticism that dominated the Trump-era Republican Party, the ranks of climate-minded GOP members have grown steadily in recent years. In response to calls from the business community as well as young conservatives, Republicans spearheaded several climate efforts in 2020, introducing the Growing Climate Solutions Act and Trillion Trees Act, and playing a crucial role in passing the largest climate package in more than a decade, the Energy Act of 2020.
Since entering the White House in January, President Biden has worked hard to make good on his promise to turn the U.S. government away from climate apathy and towards ambitious climate action. Yet, from the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office to the confusing rollout of his grab bag infrastructure plan, Biden’s climate efforts have fallen short — even with the support of a Democratic-controlled House and Senate behind him.
Now, Republicans are seizing on the opportunity to present an alternative vision to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want action on climate change.
On Monday, House Republicans began unveiling their Energy Innovation Agenda, making the case for balancing economic and environmental sustainability through targeted policy solutions. In a series of videos and social media posts, GOP members set the stage by describing the United States’ progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the dangers of a carbon tax and the importance of embracing an “all-of-the-above” energy approach. McCarthy contrasted the Republican and Democratic approach to climate, saying “unlike Democratic plans, ours don’t kill American jobs or make American energy more expensive.”
The platform itself emphasizes pragmatic solutions. The list of policies highlights bills to promote nuclear energy internationally, secure the domestic supply chain for critical minerals, streamline regulatory processes that are currently slowing clean energy projects and expand natural climate solutions such as reforestation.
While not as flashy as the Green New Deal or as pricey as Biden’s infrastructure plan, House Republicans’s climate platform offers several things Democratic proposals do not.
First off, it’s actionable. Many of the legislative proposals, such as the Trillion Trees Act, have already been introduced in this Congress with bipartisan support. Unlike Biden’s infrastructure plan, or even more moderate proposals like a carbon tax, dozens of the highlighted bills have a real shot passing in this Congress, or even this year.
Second, the plan has urgency. While supporters of the Green New Deal often speak of climate change in the most dramatic terms, their unrealistic, silver bullet solution does nothing to reduce GHGs here and now. Streamlining cumbersome regulations, on the other hand, would quickly unleash the private sector investment in infrastructure and clean energy needed to green America’s economy.
Finally, the Republican plan appeals to the millions of Americans who are often forgotten in climate discussions. While a vast majority want action on climate change, many are understandably skeptical of sweeping climate plans that will make heating their homes and putting food on the table more expensive. An incremental approach, which doesn’t sacrifice American jobs, is a truly bipartisan approach to climate change.
While House Republicans have thrown down the climate gauntlet to their Democratic colleagues, the true test will be whether they can work with pragmatic Democrats to deliver these bills to Biden’s desk. McCarthy and his conference have proven that the Republican Party is no longer the party of climate denial. To earn the votes of climate-conscious young, suburban and women voters, they will need to get real climate solutions across the finish line.
Quill Robinson is the vice president of government affairs at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Find him on Twitter at @QuillRobinson.
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