Republicans Must Have a Climate Plan — and They Need It Now

As originally published in Real Clear Politics

November 21, 2019

As a life-long, card-carrying member of the Grand Old Party, this month’s election results were tough to face. Looking beyond the headlines, our state legislative and gubernatorial losses highlighted an ongoing vulnerability for Republicans heading into 2020: attracting women and suburban voters. The party of Lincoln, which for decades has relied on strong brand appeal in the suburbs, is losing its stronghold, forcing us to squeeze more votes out of rural America, where fewer and fewer people live. Now, with Election Day 2020 less than 12 months away, Republicans must convince these important constituencies that the GOP has solutions that address their everyday concerns.

Post-midterm election surveys from Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions  as well as Climate Nexus, a partnership with the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, illustrated strong support for candidates with sensible environmental platforms. A whopping 81% of voters support government action to accelerate development of clean energy in the United States. Support for such action cuts across party lines with 67% of Republicans, 76% of independents, and 95% of Democrats in support. Perhaps most notable in light of the recent elections, 85% of suburban women want to see government take a role in accelerating the use of clean energy in the U.S.

To this end, Republicans must begin to change the narrative that they are climate deniers and present a cohesive plan to address global climate change. As a suburban mom and a lifelong Republican, I offer six principles that any successful GOP climate plan should include:

Make it affordable

Suburban voters are skeptical of the ridiculous Green New Deal because they can do the math. Implementing a pie-in-the-sky plan, estimated by some to reach $93 trillion, is a political nonstarter.

Voters must balance their household budget each and every month, and they expect the federal government to do the same.  Climate solutions need to take a common-sense, pro-taxpayer approach that embraces energy efficiency and leverages public-private partnerships.

Streamline government regulations

Suburban voters realize that the ingenuity needed to address climate change must be free of cumbersome rules and regulations. Let entrepreneurs do what they do best: innovate, build and grow. We cannot modernize our electric grid with a patchwork of local, state, and federal regulations holding up thousands of clean energy projects that would plug into it. An example of this is Massachusetts’s Vineyard Wind project, the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm, which is ready to go but has waited months for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue an environmental impact statement.

Take a true “all of the above” approach

A climate plan should literally empower every available form of energy generation — wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass included. It’s an easier sell now that renewable energy is creating jobs at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy. All-of-the-above also means utilizing valuable resources environmental extremists dismiss. Suburban voters want to make sure the lights stay on — so we need reliable fuels like cleaner-burning natural gas, which is responsible for more emissions reductions than anything else in recent years. We also need nuclear power, which is responsible 57% of the nation’s zero-emissions power.

Recognize that government has a (limited) role to spur innovation

The federal government should aggressively fund the research and development that can lead to commercialization of clean energy technologies that have significant return on investment, such as grid-scale energy storage and carbon capture. This funding should be through a combination of appropriations and tax credits to incentivize and accelerate these types of technologies.

Demonstrate U.S. leadership in emissions reductions

Many Republicans correctly point out that other industrialized nations — in particular, China and India — surpass the United States in pollution, which means our domestic emissions reductions can only do so much to address a global issue. Not only must our nation innovate and export our technologies, we should require emissions and pollution reductions through international trade and aid agreements.

Think outside of the box

While voters are hungry for new ideas, Republicans should not propose heavy-handed federal solutions. Recent calls for a voluntary greenhouse gas emissions registry for carbon offsets is an effective manner to attain emissions reductions. A more transparent system will help showcase how America’s private and public sectors have made great strides in deploying clean energy and reducing emissions.

Suburban votes are looking for leadership from their elected representatives when it comes to addressing the challenges being posed by a changing climate. Republicans must step up, or next November’s results will look a lot like this month’s election returns.

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