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Republicans need to engage in climate politics

People hold up signs while marching to the Governor’s Mansion during the Utah People’s Climate March in Salt Lake City in 2017.
Nearly 2,000 turned out and marched to the Governor’s Mansion during the Utah People’s Climate March in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Climate politics need Republican engagement. Conservation and stewardship of the natural environment are core Republican values, but for too long we have left these topics to others. We all care about clean air and clean water. We all care about leaving the earth better than we found it. But most of the suggestions we hear from Washington are about spending, regulation, top-down mandates and increases of government power. These are not the best ways to reduce emissions or to safeguard our environment.

We haven’t heard enough about innovation and American leadership. We haven’t heard enough about pro-growth, market-based policies. Republicans need to talk about solutions based on these principles. We need to do more than just oppose bad ideas. We need to offer good ones that are effective and consistent with our values. Policies will be better if they are built on conservative principles of accountability, transparency, free markets and limited government. Republican involvement can ensure that those principles make it into legislation.

Emissions can be cut either with regulations, incentives or price signals. Regulations are heavy-handed and growth-inhibiting. They burden the economy, they cost American jobs, and they end up exporting our emissions to other countries. Incentives can work, but they let government choose the winners and losers, and too often end up becoming permanent entitlements. We believe the best way to cut emissions is with a price signal to the private sector, which lets competition and innovation find the solutions.

We support a carbon dividends approach that puts a fee on carbon emissions and returns all the money to the American people in dividend checks. This approach does not require heavy-handed government oversight. The fee gives the markets an incentive to move to cleaner technologies, while the dividend protects families from the effect of higher energy prices. Most families should come out financially ahead, and they will be rewarded for reducing emissions however they choose. All will benefit from the cleaner air that will result from these policies.

It’s time to unburden the American economy by eliminating regulations that will no longer be needed because of the price signal. We don’t need to tell people what kind of light bulbs to use, or what kind of car to drive. They can make those decisions for themselves once the cost of pollution is priced into the products. People will make better decisions than government ever could, and American businesses will stay at the forefront of innovation as they develop new technologies.

Carbon dividends will also put American manufacturers on a level playing field with the rest of the world by applying the carbon fee to goods imported from countries that aren’t doing their part to reduce emissions. American manufacturing is among the cleanest in the world, but right now gets no competitive advantage from that, as our regulations incentivize manufacturers to leave the country. A border carbon adjustment will reward environmental stewardship and position our manufacturers to grow and create jobs without giving other countries a free pass to pollute. We must continue to lead the world by creating better policy.

Environmental stewardship is a core value to younger voters, including young Republicans. The carbon dividends plan has earned the support of both Utah College Republicans and Utah Young Republicans. Carbon pricing has the support of major business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the American Petroleum Institute.

They know that a predictable carbon fee is better than arbitrary regulations that bounce back and forth between administrations. Fee and dividend plans also have the support of many environmental groups, who see them as an effective way to reduce emissions.

Rapidly falling prices mean clean technologies are the future of energy — and the next decade will be a time of rapid progress. American innovation can lead the way, creating technologies we can export around the world. If we continue to put the wrong policies in place, America can watch other countries take the lead and market share. An economy-wide, technology-neutral carbon price is the most effective way to accelerate that innovation.

Utah has a long tradition of finding common ground and practical solutions to difficult problems, and of making sound financial choices that protect our economy. We also value stewardship of our natural resources for future generations. It’s time for us to rise to the challenge and offer solutions that drive growth and cut emissions without handing more power to Washington.

Sen. Jacob Anderegg (Lehi, SD13), Rep. Kera Birkeland (Morgan, HD53), 2020 gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham (Provo), Sen. Curt Bramble (Provo, SD16), Sen. Kirk Cullimore (Sandy, SD9), former Rep. Becky Edwards (North Salt Lake, HD20), Rep. Joel Ferry (Brigham City, HD1), former Rep. Brian Greene (Pleasant Grove, HD57), Rep. Craig Hall (West Valley City, HD33), Rep. Steve Handy (Layton, HD16), former Rep. Fred Hunsaker (Logan, HD4), Rep. Dan Johnson (Logan, HD4), Sen. John Johnson (Ogden, SD19), 2016 gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Johnson (Holladay), Rep. Marsha Judkins (Provo, HD61), Rep. Robert Spendlove (Sandy, HD49), Rep. Jeff Stenquist (Draper, HD51), Rep. Jordan Teuscher (South Jordan, HD42), Rep. Steve Waldrip (Eden, HD8), Rep. Ray Ward (Bountiful, HD19), Rep. Ryan Wilcox (Ogden, HD7), former Rep. and Commissioner of Agriculture Logan Wilde (Croydon, HD53), Rep. Mike Winder (West Valley City, HD30), Chris Wilson (Logan, SD25), Rep. Melissa G. Ballard (North Salt Lake, HD20)