A fresh start on climate solutions

Today’s introduction of a “Green New Deal” resolution is a welcome shot in the arm for those of us waiting for Congress to recommit to the development of a national climate strategy.

The blueprint offered by Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez frames our climate challenges in terms of economic risks and opportunities, an approach C2ES has long encouraged. And it wisely leaves the door open for zero-emitting solutions like nuclear and carbon capture, technologies that will be critical in achieving and maintaining net-zero emissions. It’s worth everyone taking the time to explore this as a frame around which bipartisan discussions can occur, a necessary ingredient.

As lawmakers begin debating the broad contours of a comprehensive long-term solution, it’s important not to lose sight of the opportunities to strengthen action right now. Indeed, two hearings yesterday in the House of Representatives offered hopeful signs of emerging bipartisan support for meaningful interim steps.

The House Natural Resources Committee, in its first hearing on climate change in a decade, heard from both the Democratic governor of North Carolina and the Republican governor of Massachusetts on the urgency of action in their home states. Meanwhile, House Energy and Commerce Democratic Chair Frank Pallone of New Jersey chaired his committee’s first climate hearing in six years with a host of witnesses from communities affected by climate change.

At C2ES, we’re focused on long-term solutions and developing a national climate strategy that includes both carbon pricing and the complementary policies needed to reach mid-century climate goals. Now that may be a tall order in the present political climate, but there are impactful, near-term opportunities for bipartisan progress.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made clear that climate change is not a partisan issue in his state. He described how warming temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are forcing fishermen to further waters for cod and lobster – putting an additional squeeze on a trade that has sustained New England for generations.

Further down the coast, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told lawmakers about the continuing efforts in his state to rebuild after 2018’s Hurricane Florence took 43 lives and caused $17 billion in damages. He urged greater flexibility use of federal recovery funds so that infrastructure could be rebuilt with an eye to both mitigation and resilience – building smarter and stronger for future storms.

Early in the Energy and Commerce hearing, senior committee members set a cooperative tone Chairman Pallone stressed that climate change knows no political boundaries, and that solutions will require common ground. Republican John Shimkus voiced concern for the risk climate change poses to American communities. And the ranking Energy and Commerce Republican, Greg Walden, said Republicans can work with Democrats toward solutions: “The need to foster a strong U.S. economy and grow American jobs is real. And the need to prepare our communities for the future is real.”

If this spirit holds, there’s a real chance of making progress on near-term steps that can reduce emissions and protect communities and infrastructure from climate risk,  while investing in strong and sustained economic growth. That’s where C2ES’s focus is – finding common ground for constructive climate solutions.

Later this month, we’ll begin laying out steps – including incentives for efficiency, innovation and low-carbon infrastructure – that we think can draw bipartisan support to help reduce emissions and lay the foundation for deeper reductions in the future. Stay tuned!