Top Dem lawmaker rolls out climate plan to appeal to GOP

Top Dem lawmaker rolls out climate plan to appeal to GOP
© Greg Nash

A top Democratic lawmaker Thursday unveiled a new policy outline for future climate change legislation meant to appeal to the GOP.

Speaking to a crowd at the Climate Leadership Conference in Baltimore, Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoTrump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 MORE (D-N.Y.) laid out a nine-point plan for drafting future meaningful climate bills, saying, “This issue cannot wait for politics.”

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The broad plan, which Tonko called “doable,” is meant to attract bipartisan interest and will include a carbon pricing plan.

Tomko said the points laid out are not meant to be specific, but to provide a framework as legislators work to come to a consensus on how to best tackle the looming threat of global warming.

“Nothing is off the table. Let a thousand climate and clean energy plans bloom,” Tonko told the crowd, welcoming multiple ideas.

The pillars of his framework include setting targets for greenhouse gas neutrality by mid-century, ensuring clean energy industries continue to emerge in the U.S. and investing in energy efficiency research and development.

Tonko, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce climate change subcommittee, has long called for action on climate change but has questioned the legitimacy of bold bills like the Green New Deal, which some have likened to a quick fix.

With his outline, Tonko said he wanted to build “a consensus for comprehensive climate action.”

“There needs to be a longer, deliberate debate and discussion about putting a price on carbon because carbon pollution today is free, and there is a cost to society of that on public health, public safety and national security,” Tonko told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

A resulting climate bill would ultimately include a longer-term plan of establishing a price on carbon emissions, though Tonko did not specify whether it would be through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

His plan is likely to be compared to the ambitious climate policies laid out in the Green New Deal resolution introduced in February by his Democratic colleague Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump CBS to Ocasio-Cortez on Sanders support: 'As a woman of color, why back an old white guy?' MORE (N.Y.).

Tonko told the Examiner that his framework, which he developed over the course of 18 months, will be “complementary” to the Green New Deal. He is not a co-sponsor of that legislation.

Tonko’s plan lays out a longer-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In contrast, the Green New Deal aims for a similar goal by 2030.

Speaking to the crowd Thursday, Tonko had a message for Republicans who have so far responded to calls for climate legislation by urging the need for innovation in the form of carbon capture and other emissions-cutting methods.

“I see good things coming from both sides of the political aisle,” he said.

“But it’s going to take more than just innovation and technology. It needs a total, across-the-board treatment. A price established on carbon, that would provide certainty for reductions in emissions and allow for that price signal,” he said.