As originally published in The Hill
November 8, 2019
Nov. 4 was the first day that the Trump administration could file paperwork to officially withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, and it wasted no time doing so.
The fact is the agreement was far from perfect. It wasn’t even originally supported by some climate activists. It was unenforceable and lacking in specifics. Still, it was a signal to the world that the U.S. takes climate change and reducing emissions seriously, so it would appear on its surface to be a step backwards in dealing with the problem.
President Trump’s opposition from the outset was an early sign that he would not prioritize emissions reductions for the sake of climate change. His criticism stemmed from the agreement’s impact on the domestic economy and his view that it neither adequately held China, the world’s biggest source of emissions, nor India accountable. A story about the smog last weekend in New Delhi is a reminder that he’s not exactly wrong.
“It was almost as though it was meant to hurt the competitiveness of the United States, so we did away with that one,” President Trump said recently.
While the U.S. withdrawal is not the global setback that some had feared as no other nation followed our decision, the U.S. still needs to determine its own action. And there are plenty of Republicans who rejected the Paris agreement but who agree that the federal government has a role in addressing climate change. This position has been repeatedly championed by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.)—who hails from the oil and gas state of Louisiana and is the ranking member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. While there are plenty of politics to navigate for policymakers, voters want action, including a majority of conservatives.
In the four years since the 2015 Paris negotiations, Republicans have found solid footing in supporting practical, economically minded clean energy initiatives. Even in the past couple weeks, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) co-founded the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) announced a series of planned bills that will tackle climate change from a free-market standpoint.
Herein lies the divergence in strategies from Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, having dominated the discourse about solutions to climate change for decades, are focused on proposed top-down legislation, either from the federal government—or even at the global level, via negotiations with the United Nations, the most notable being Democrats Sen. Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) utopic and absurdly expensive Green New Deal. But the reality is the American people, in large part, tend to reject costly, big government solutions and international deals that put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage.
Voters will, however, support solutions that reduce emissions and keep our air and water clean, while creating jobs, growing the economy, and strengthening our national security. Innovation in clean energy is delivering those solutions through energy storage, microgrids, and other advanced technologies that are pushing our energy independence.
Republicans are admittedly latecomers to addressing climate change, but the fact that they are now asking for a seat at the table means that legislation to address climate change should be attainable at the federal level. For anyone who cares about climate, regardless of political perspective, bipartisan engagement on climate in the United States should be much more encouraging than the Paris accord ever was.
Heather Reams is Executive Director for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded in 2013 to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.