Utah College Republicans: The GOP needs a national climate strategy

(Charlie Riedel | AP file photo) In this Aug. 6, 2019 photo, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worker Ron Allen uses a GPS tool to survey the extent of damage where a levee failed along the Missouri River near Saline City, Mo.

In a significant shift, U.S. House Republicans unveiled a suite of climate proposals last month. As the leaders of five Utah College Republican chapters, we applaud this development, which underscores the growing recognition in the party that it must be proactive on climate. Now it's time for Republicans to go one step further and offer a comprehensive national climate strategy.

College Republican chapters across the country are on the frontlines of recruiting the next generation of conservatives, and we see how the party’s record on climate has become a challenge on campus. National polling confirms this shift. Nearly 70% of GOP voters under 40 are concerned that the party’s stance on climate change is hurting its image with younger voters, a recent Luntz Group poll found. Unless there’s a course correction, this spells trouble for the GOP.

But climate action isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about safeguarding Americans’ prosperity and way of life. Failing to address the climate threat could cost the American economy billions of dollars, according to a 2018 federal report. Our generation, with decades of life ahead of us, senses the economic stakes and we’re looking for effective solutions.

While Republicans are right to focus on clean energy innovation as the key to unlocking climate progress, subsidies are a costly way to drive innovation across the economy. They require ever higher deficits or taxes to finance. They also rely on government bureaucrats picking winners and losers rather than letting the market decide the most compelling technologies—hardly a conservative solution or one that is likely to work.

Yet a wait-and-see approach is not the answer, either. If Republicans fail to seize control of the climate issue, the Green New Deal looms as a major threat to businesses, job creation and Americans’ way of life. This ill-conceived plan would require trillions of dollars in new federal spending, cost American jobs and invite a massive increase in government power.

Fortunately, some Republicans are showing leadership and fresh thinking on the issue. This summer, Senator Mitt Romney floated a carbon dividends approach to addressing climate change. This solution, known as the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan, has won the support of College Republican leaders from across the country, including all five of us.

The plan would charge fossil fuel companies a fee on their carbon emissions and return all the money directly back to the American people in quarterly checks. This would cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2035, and a family of four would receive about $2,000 per year. To stimulate business, the plan would eliminate unnecessary regulations so American companies can innovate and create jobs. Importantly, it would put American manufacturers first by assessing a fee on imported goods from foreign corporations that aren’t doing their part to reduce emissions.

The carbon dividends solution has earned support from leading American businesses and environmentalists. Corporate supporters span the manufacturing, oil and gas, wind, solar, food and beverage, tech and telecom sectors. Thousands of economists have endorsed it, including all eight Republican former White House economic advisers and scores of economists from here in Utah.

As this momentum suggests, there’s real appetite among leading Republicans and the GOP’s youth wing to show leadership on climate. The party of free markets and limited government has an important role to play in the climate conversation. Crucially, it can offer solutions that harness the power of the market without handing more power to Washington.

It’s these solutions — that drive growth rather than punish businesses or people’s lifestyles — that will be winners for the American people and our party. Let’s rise to the challenge and make them the basis for a comprehensive national climate strategy.

Hunter Thomas, chairman of the Brigham Young University College Republicans; Augusta Scott, chairwoman of the Utah State University College Republicans; Grayson Massey, Chairman of the Utah Federation of College Republicans (’17-’19), Abe Vazquez, chairman of the Weber State College Republicans; and Madison Hufford, Co-Chairwoman of the Southern Utah University College Republicans.