A group of Republican elder statesmen called on their party’s leadership to address climate change by enacting a carbon tax to replace much of the Obama-era environmental regulation.
The plan, proposed by a group dubbed the Climate Leadership Council on Wednesday, calls for a carbon tax that increases over time and distributes the proceeds back to Americans in the form of a dividend. The plan would be accompanied by regulatory rollback, including elimination of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and a border adjustment that imposes a fee on products made in countries without their own carbon pricing mechanisms.
The group includes GOP leaders from the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, including former Secretary of State James Baker, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former Secretary of State George Shultz. Leading Republican economists Martin Feldstein and N. Gregory Mankiw endorsed the economics of the plan.
Still, officials in the Obama White House have long-acknowledged that the administration’s use of regulations to address climate change was far from ideal. But President Obama was left with few alternatives after Congress rejected a cap-and-trade proposal early in his presidency. “If you were starting from scratch you would not arrive here,” said Brian Deese, a senior advisor to President Obama on climate change, in remarks late last year. “Theory suggests a nationwide price on carbon would lead to even more economically efficient outcomes.”
Republicans in Congress have largely balked at measures to address climate change, though a small contingent continues to push the issue. The backers of the new plan said they believe even current skeptics will eventually have to face the reality of climate change. “This will become the inevitable climate solution,” said Halstead. “We cannot tell you when, but we can tell you that eventually, this country has to deal with this issue, and we think that our solution will be front and center.”