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INSIGHT: ‘Green Real Deal’ Shows GOP Warming to Climate Action

May 22, 2019, 10:00 AM

The latest evidence that support for climate policy is growing among Republicans in Congress is the “Green Real Deal.” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced the climate action resolution in April—his response to New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.

Gaetz began circulating a draft of the resolution in March. Even before it was officially released, POLITICO called Gaetz’s resolution “the most detailed GOP response to the Green New Deal,” because the resolution says that climate change is not only real, but a threat to national security. The resolution calls for robust greenhouse gas emissions reductions and for the government to promote innovative climate solutions.

Gaetz’s approach is refreshing. Even though he otherwise fits the usual view of the modern Trump Republican—pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump—he has a consistent history of disagreeing with the GOP establishment on the topic of climate change.

“Climate change isn’t something people get to choose to believe or not, it’s happening,” Gaetz said in an interview with VICE, “It’s really not a radical statement.” What is radical, however, is that this call for climate action is coming from the pro-Trump political right, showing that there is room for bipartisan agreement.

Seven Goals

The Green Real Deal resolution lays out seven goals to guide policy making: reduce greenhouse gas emissions, innovate for clean energy alternatives, lead the globe in clean energy and carbon capture technologies, remove regulatory barriers to the use of those technologies, ensure that the government does not favor certain technologies over others, support technology-neutral policies at the state and local levels, and adapt infrastructure and the military as necessary to address the impacts of climate change.

These principles can serve as a blueprint for a conservative vision of climate action, where the ingenuity of American innovators is celebrated as the first line of offense in tackling an environmental challenge. Faced with a threat as significant as climate change, we need everyone at the table who has ideas and talents to contribute.

Unlike the rhetoric coming from partisans abusing the issue for political gain, the conservative approach of the Green Real Deal framework will create breathing room in the free market for visionary energy innovators. We are looking to these leaders in business and technology to find new energy solutions and carbon capture technologies.

Government can help by eliminating the bureaucratic red tape and marketplace entry problems that has, in the past, too often kept these innovators out of the conversation or sent them overseas to develop and test their technology.

The time is right for conservatives to make this case, because more evidence is pointing toward a future in which traditional conservative voices in the GOP will become leaders on climate action and clean energy. Republicans in Congress have been speaking out about the need to address climate change recently, and this shift isn’t just coming from newcomers like Gaetz.

Conservative Climate Action

In February, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) expressed willingness to consider policies to address climate threats such as greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Meadows, another pro-Trump Republican and Freedom Caucus leader, doubled-down on recognizing the need for conservative climate action at a congressional hearing in April. Also in February, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, “as other countries grow their economies, they should be using the best possible technology to capture carbon emissions.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) published an op-ed arguing for “thoughtful solutions” to climate change, and Sen. Thom Tillis even tweeted recently that, “both parties need to work together to deploy an innovative, market-driven strategy to combat the impacts of climate change.”

Critics have questioned whether the Green Real Deal goes far enough and have been quick to point out this isn’t the first time the GOP has changed its messaging on climate change.

What the naysayers should recognize, however, is that those turns on climate action were actually early tremors signaling a greater seismic shift on the issue of climate change amongst conservatives. In fact, recent polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication shows a majority of Republicans actually do believe that the government should take climate action.

Those who are not yet convinced that conservatives really do want to address climate change should at least suspend their onslaught of criticism and seriously consider supporting some of the new ideas conservatives like Gaetz are bringing to the table.

The Green Real Deal is a no-nonsense resolution which is full of specific policy recommendations, and it is already drawing the support of clean energy advocates. This resolution is one of many encouraging signs that the Republican Party is warming to the idea of climate action.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Sarah E. Hunt is co-founder and CEO of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. Previously, she ran clean energy and climate change programs at the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Niskanen Center.