Back from the dead for the third time since the late 1990s, climate change is emerging as a bi-partisan issue at the federal level. While much of the media attention is going to progressives and last week’s climate debate among Democratic presidential contenders, the most telling event was the formation of the Republican Conservation Caucus (RCC) in July with an explicit focus on climate change. The RCC was formed not just to oppose the Green New Deal, but to provide constructive policies for addressing climate change. Even the GOP’s own polling bears this out with Republican Pollster Frank Lutz noting recently that America as a whole wants the federal government to take steps to mitigate climate change.
Despite this, I’m sure there are still pundits who are convinced a candidate can’t run on addressing climate change as a winning political issue. This is not true. The challenge is to rise above traps that frame the conversation of what we need to do less of, and zero in on ways to increase investment opportunities to accelerate clean energy and ecosystem services. This approach was affirmed by a recent report from the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition consisting of several unions and environmental groups, that focuses on creating high quality jobs, rebuilding manufacturing and advocating for community resiliency. A message that will likely resonate with voters in the handful of midwestern states that are certain to be the battleground for the 2020 Presidential elections.
If framing climate change politically as one where investments are to be made, then carbon pricing policies such as cap and trade should receive significant attention. Cap and trade is a particularly effective approach in two ways. First, by generating revenues for governments to fund these investments and second, by sending a price signal for carbon, which will leverage further financial resources from the private sector. Though it’s easy to be cynical about the motivation behind this news, hopefully discussion about federal climate policies along these lines will dominate the discussion leading into the next election.