As impeachment proceedings ratchet up the partisan tension in Washington, there’s still hope that progress can be made on the pressing problems of the day. It appears Republicans and Democrats are coming together on one issue that seemed intractable not long ago: climate change.
In the Senate, Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana is teaming up with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons to form the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. In a jointly written op-ed, the two senators said, “We recognize the simple reality that climate policy is too serious to ram through Congress on a partisan basis.”
The Senate group complements the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House that was established in 2016. It became a judgment-free zone where members of both parties could come together for serious discussions about solving climate change. Today, there are myriad bipartisan bills in the House, thanks in no small part to the collaborative atmosphere the caucus created.
A bipartisan approach to solving climate change is essential because passing legislation requires buy-in from both sides. Regardless of which party controls the Senate and White House, political winds shift, and policies with broad support will withstand those shifts.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking common ground on climate change because public opinion has reached a tipping point that cannot be ignored. A CBS News poll last month found two-thirds of Americans view climate change as a crisis or serious problem, and a majority want immediate action.
Overwhelming majorities of younger GOP voters regard climate change as a serious threat, too: 77 percent of them said so in a survey by Ipsos and Newsy this fall.
It’s not just polling motivating Congress — it’s citizens. Volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby are carrying a clear message to their representatives: “Make climate change a bridge issue, not a wedge issue.” CCL volunteers have held 1,131 meetings with congressional offices so far this year to bring the parties together on climate change. That message is amplified with thousands of constituent letters and phone calls.
Now that we have Republicans and Democrats talking to each other about climate solutions, what major legislation will they support together?
A price on carbon offers promising common ground. Thousands of U.S. economists, including Federal Reserve chairs who served under Republican and Democratic presidents, support carbon pricing as an effective tool to reduce emissions quickly. Newsweek recently surveyed 300 multinational corporations and found that 95 percent are in favor of mandatory carbon pricing. And according to Luntz Global, carbon pricing that includes a revenue return to Americans has four to one support among all voters. Among GOP voters under 40, that support rises to 75 percent.
This year, four carbon pricing bills have been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship.
Of the four, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) has attracted the most support, with 68 House members now signed on, including Republican Francis Rooney of Florida. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon, rising by $10 per ton each year. All revenue would be paid out equally to every household. In 10years, a family of four would receive an annual “carbon dividend” of about $3,500. Resources for the Future estimates this policy would reduce carbon emissions 47 percent by 2030. The bill targets 90 percent reductions by 2050.
Here in Portola, Portola City Council endorsed the Energy Innovation Act this past summer. The city council in Truckee has also endorsed the Energy Innovation Act. The Chico City Council recently declared a “climate emergency” and Oroville City Council has passed a resolution supporting a carbon fee and dividend plan. Also, three businesses in Chico have endorsed the Energy Innovation Act: Secret Trails Brewery, GRUB CSA (community supported agricultural farm) and Wookey Ranch. This support, here and throughout the country, sends a signal to Republican lawmakers that backing H.R. 763 can be a politically astute move.
Despite the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, elected officials are realizing that climate change is one area where differences must be set aside for the good of our nation and the world. Not only are they realizing it, but they’re starting to act on it.
Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Robbin Anderson is a member of Chico Citizens’ Climate Lobby.