As originally published in Medium.
This month, the Climate Leadership Council announced The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends, a proposal co-authored by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget George Schultz. While it’s encouraging that respected Republicans such as Baker and Shultz have engaged in addressing climate and carbon, carbon dividends are likely to face steep challenges with this administration and Congress. However, initiatives from outside the Beltway, led by Republican Governors, are already making strides in clean energy reforms.
For instance, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-Ill.) has expanded renewable energy production and saved thousands of local jobs by improving the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Additionally, Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) has championed a solar energy bill to create a long-term plan for sustainable solar development, industry expansion, and greenhouse gas reductions. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) drafted and signed an executive order that reactivated a task force to help promote and distribute renewable energy resources, advocate for the development and integration of clean energy sources into Nevada’s energy sector, and build modern and cost-effective infrastructure.
Recent acknowledgements from other conservatives show that there is a significant pivot in messaging around clean energy solutions. Throughout the confirmation hearings of Governor Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy, Representative Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt seeking to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, each nominee admitted that the climate is indeed changing. None were viewed as being a “climate denier.” Further, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear that the U.S. should continue to be a key player in addressing climate change rather than abandoning the Paris Agreement.
Although a change in energy messaging is a step in the right direction, Republican leaders should continue the dialogue by focusing on how clean energy reforms reinforce the conservative principles of job creation, a strong high-tech economy, innovation, competition and conservation. Perhaps a true free-market path isn’t yet fully fleshed out, but the GOP has a tremendous opportunity to lead on energy conversation and find solutions that promote economic prosperity and a cleaner environment for future generations.
Heather Reams is the managing director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.