Facebook Twitter

Rep. John Curtis joins Republicans taking on the GOP’s ‘branding problem’ at global climate change conference

‘We’ve been subject to a branding problem, and we need to overcome that. But loud and clear, Republicans care,’ Curtis says

SHARE Rep. John Curtis joins Republicans taking on the GOP’s ‘branding problem’ at global climate change conference
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks to journalists during a recent summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan, Utah.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks to journalists during a recent summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan on April 17, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Rep. John Curtis says the idea that conservatives don’t care about climate change is a result of bad branding, something the Utah Republican is trying to overcome during his trip to Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders convened this week to workshop solutions to a warming planet.

“We’ve been subject to a branding problem, and we need to overcome that. But loud and clear, Republicans care,” Curtis said on “Face the Nation” Sunday, before host Margaret Brennan pressed him further.

“You think it’s just a branding problem?” Brennan asked.

“Absolutely,” Curtis said, before telling Brennan that in Utah, “deep down, everybody cares about this planet.”

Curtis said “extremist rhetoric” on the environment can alienate Republicans, but pointed to the Conservative Climate Caucus, which he started, as an example of the GOP taking climate change seriously.

Curtis is one of several Republicans traveling to Scotland for the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference. Accompanied by Republican Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, David McKinley of West Virginia and Garret Graves of Louisiana, Curtis wants to use the conference to show Republicans are serious about climate change.

“Very important to us is for the world to see that Republicans are very interested in the climate dialogue and that we want a seat at the table and that we feel like we have some good ideas,” Curtis told the Washington Post.

However, Curtis says he will vote no on the Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, which has been lauded by the president as a key step in tackling carbon emissions.

As he addressed the COP26 conference Monday, Biden called it “the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis that any advanced nation has made, ever.”

Biden lauded the climate provisions in the package, including tax credits for renewable energy, cutting emissions by over a gigaton by 2030, promoting clean energy manufacturing and investing in carbon capture systems.

He called his plan with the European Union to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by the end of the decade the “simple, most effective strategy we have to slow global warming in the near term.”

While Curtis says there are aspects of the bill that could be effective in combating climate change — like $6 billion slated for small nuclear reactors — it being “coupled with the reconciliation spending was just a no go for Republicans.”

“My state is more worried about debt than handouts from the federal government. Sure, there’s some good things in that bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the reality of it is, is that’s not the vote. They’ve been very clear. If the bipartisan infrastructure package passes, so does the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Now, it may not be 3.5 trillion anymore. But I’ll tell you, foremost on Utahns’ minds, is debt,” Curtis said on “Face the Nation.”

Some Democrats say Congress’ lack of action on the package prior to the summit hurts America’s credibility as a key player in the fight against climate change, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., telling Reuters “we’ve completely disgraced ourselves.”

Part of the GOP’s climate strategy is to steer away from “unrealistic goals,” Curtis said.

“If we follow the Republican path, we don’t need to kill U.S. jobs, we don’t need to export our jobs overseas and subject ourselves to our enemies,” Curtis said.

Instead, the Utah Republican wants to see a free market approach, crediting American innovation and technology for a greater reduction in emissions than the “Green New Deal could have ever dreamed of doing.”

“I have full confidence in this marketplace now. That’s not to say that as a government we don’t have a role, that we shouldn’t be looking for those areas to incentivize and help and poke and prod along the way,” he said. “But we need all hands on deck, you know, and we need to talk about this in a bipartisan way and not just the extreme ideas.”

The COP26 conference kicked off its second day Monday with speeches from world leaders. The two-week conference is set to tackle issues like mobilizing finance, a global transition to green energy, adapting to a changing climate and more.