While the politics of climate change divide our nation, the results of a warming planet equally affect all Utahns. Global warming exacerbates our drought, fuels our wildfires and threatens the existence of the Great Salt Lake.
Winter temperatures in the U.S. are projected to warm an additional four to ten degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, decreasing our snow cover and limiting our snow season. Without snow, Utahns lack drinking water and inflow to the Great Salt Lake. A shorter snow season also spells economic hardship for business owners and employees in the ski industry, which contributes $1.3 billion yearly to Utah’s economy. As climate impacts grow, these losses could become unsustainable.
Utah political leaders are acutely aware of these threats, and have been taking a lead role on a national level to address climate change.
U.S. Rep. John Curtis founded the Conservative Climate Caucus, giving Republicans a seat at the table on climate issues for the first time. Rep. Blake Moore has highlighted how the Republican Party cannot “sit on the sidelines of the climate change debate” and stresses the need for the GOP to “change the narrative.”
Sen. Mitt Romney has been a vocal proponent of a carbon fee, highlighting how this policy could be a pillar of the Republican strategy to address climate change by encouraging technological advances such as carbon capture and advanced nuclear reactors.
When the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed the Senate recently, it got no Republican votes. Bipartisan legislation is always better than laws passed by one party, but the IRA incorporates many good ideas that Utah legislators have been championing.
For example, the bill gives nuclear plants the same tax credits long enjoyed by solar and wind, finally putting them on a level playing field. Geothermal energy, much of it located in Utah, gets a financial boost, as does carbon capture technology. The IRA funds mining for the critical minerals we need to create batteries, and Utah is one of the best places in the world to find those minerals.
The IRA includes funding to help our rural coal mining communities, as well as funds to fix methane leaks, which will be appreciated by energy producers in the Uinta Basin. Permitting for energy infrastructure will be expedited and leasing for oil and gas will resume, providing reliable energy for consumers and improving our energy security. Our congressional delegation elevated many of these ideas and can be proud that they are included in the bill.
Yet the IRA only goes so far. While the IRA aims to reduce U.S. emissions by 40%, it does nothing to hold other countries accountable for their emissions. A carbon border adjustment - a fee on imports from countries without their own carbon reduction plans - would do just that by financially encouraging our trading partners to join us in reducing carbon pollution.
This is why many businesses, even oil giants like Shell and BP, have come out in support of a carbon fee to curb emissions. As the vice president of Sustainability at Salesforce, Patrick Flynn, explained, “a well-designed price on carbon is the most direct and cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions.”
A carbon border adjustment provides an opportunity for our Utah Republican delegation to step in, as it is increasingly supported by both sides of the political aisle. Our legislators could lead the way by introducing a bill to enact a carbon border adjustment, at no cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Utah Republicans have the opportunity to lead on climate change, and we hope our Utah legislators continue to fight for solutions to climate change. Our state, and our country, are depending on them.
Tom Moyer is a state coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
Lauren Barros leads the Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.