“Let’s take every action we can that makes sense that has the prospect of reducing the impact of climate change. But I want to do that in a way that’s smart and that will actually make a difference globally, not just something that will make us feel good …”
Those aren’t my words; they are Sen. Mitt Romney’s. I could not agree more.
At a Washington Post event last month, Romney laid out his vision for the future of climate policy. His message: The best, most effective climate policies will create a massive incentive for the private sector to innovate. These innovations will be clean and affordable. They will encourage high-polluting countries like China and India to do their part. He proposed a price on carbon with border adjustment taxes to help drive these outcomes.
I applaud Romney for speaking up. As I see it, there is a clear need for more pro-business approaches to solving the climate challenge. We must act. But too often, federal climate action has come at great expense to the American people. Policies that pick winners and losers or impose burdensome regulations do not allow businesses to thrive. While Utahns are concerned about the effects of climate change, we are also worried about the economy, access to good jobs and inflation. Romney is saying we don’t have to choose one or the other. A decline in emissions does not have to cause a decline in economic prosperity. Market-based solutions prioritize both.
Imagine a system where clean manufacturers can get ahead because of — not despite — their good faith efforts. They enjoy an economic boost for making low-emitting choices. In that system, America comes out on top. So does the climate.
Our manufacturers already create products that are among the most energy efficient in the world. In the case of China, we are three times more efficient. Establishing policies like the ones Romney suggested would reward our innovative manufacturers, allow them to compete on a level playing field, and penalize countries with lower environmental standards. Simply put, economic incentives that discourage pollution encourage the kind of innovation America excels at. Cleaner manufacturers would naturally gain market share, so operating cleanly would come at a lower cost. Innovative energy technologies would be exported throughout the world, giving everyone a stake. There would be global competition to do right by the environment.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, has also expressed interest in exploring ways to hold countries like China and Russia more accountable for their emissions. As chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, he is working to educate Republican members on climate policies that are good for our economy and national security. It is heartening to see this progress being driven from within our own congressional delegation.
But while these ideas hold conservative appeal, they’re not just for conservatives. Romney noted support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I think that is because most people understand climate change is a significant global problem. We can’t solve it alone. If we are to be successful in protecting the health and well-being of future generations, we have to come together. Climate policies that account for economic growth stand the best chance at bridging bipartisan divides and bringing other countries on board.
Romney, I hope you’ll keep moving America forward toward concrete action. Thanks to your leadership, Utah is at the forefront of shaping what it means to be both pro-business and pro-climate. We should all welcome these market-based climate solutions.
Scott Anderson is the CEO of Zions Bank, a member of the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact, and a co-chair of Utahns for Carbon Dividends.