New GOP climate plan focuses on innovation, conservation

By Ari Natter on 2/12/2020

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - House Republicans will begin revealing on Wednesday their plan to combat climate change that comports with conservative principles of less regulation and increased domestic energy development.

The move comes as the GOP stance on the issue shifts from sowing doubt about climate change -- or ignoring it all together -- to grappling with how to best address it in the face of pressure from young voters and public alarm over deadly storms and wildfires linked to global warming.

“I think it’s a lot like health care was for the Republican party,” said Kiera O’Brien, president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends. “Climate is really a risk issue for us. We see the writing on the wall.”

But don’t expect the plan being crafted by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and other senior GOP officials to include mandated limits on greenhouse gas emissions or a tax on carbon dioxide. Instead, Republicans are focused on a proposal centered around innovation and conservation.

The first of portion of the legislation is scheduled to get an airing Wednesday when McCarthy unveils a package focused on carbon sequestration. It is expected to include a permanent extension of a tax credit for oil companies and others that capture carbon dioxide and bury it in the ground, money for the development of carbon capture for natural-gas power plants, and backing for the United Nation’s “Trillion Trees” reforestation initiative, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Later components are likely to focus on climate resilience, plastic pollution and increasing energy production from carbon-free electricity sources like nuclear and hydropower, the people said.

The measures, many of which have Democratic backing, are in line with legislation being prepared by Republicans in the Senate that are focused on energy storage, renewable power and carbon-capture technology.

But critics dismiss the plans as cynical rhetoric.

“I think they’ve been backed into a corner and they realize they can’t be climate deniers anymore,” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club. “They have to say something but what they are saying is nothing. It’s grasping at plastic straws and planting trees.”

Climate change is an awkward issue for Republicans because it has been dismissed by their leader, President Donald Trump, whose donors in the oil and gas industry are eager to head off new government regulation.

At the same time, a poll of 1,000 18- to 35-year-old voters by the American Conservation Coalition found that 77% of right-leaning respondents said climate change was important to them, a number that increased to 90% among independent voters.

“From our perspective the climate crisis is huge and its going to need Democrats and Republicans alike working toward solving it,” said Sandra Purohit, director of federal advocacy for E2, a group of environmental business leaders that is partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We see these as building blocks, its not the whole solution but its the direction we start moving in if we need to start addressing climate.”

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