Breaking the Climate Impasse

The New York Times

As former leaders of our parties in the United States Senate, we know what it takes to achieve a bipartisan breakthrough in Congress. For all the talk of discord in Washington, we see the possibility of finding common ground on a divisive issue. As surprising as it may sound, climate change offers a chance for both parties to come together and deliver a victory — and cash dividends — to the American people.

Climate change is one of the great challenges of our generation. The politics of the issue have been divisive for decades and a new approach is needed to address this urgent problem.

Both Democrats and Republicans can find that solution. America has always come together at moments of crisis or opportunity, from the shadows of economic depression and world war to the promise of the technology revolution and our rise to global energy dominance. America now must marshal its political will to lead on climate as well.

There is only one lever powerful enough to solve this problem at the required scale and speed. Congress should approve legislation to place a meaningful fee on carbon-dioxide emissions that ripples through all sectors of our economy, and return the revenues it generates to the American people in the form of cash payments. We must set it high enough to encourage a turn to cleaner energy sources and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future. If America leads on carbon pricing, the rest of the world will follow.

We can do this. We are proposing that Democratic and Republican leaders put their differences aside and support a plan proposed last year by two former Republican secretaries of state, James Baker and George Shultz. The Baker-Shultz plan has been endorsed by two former heads of the Federal Reserve, by Treasury secretaries from both parties, and by leading corporations from nearly every sector.

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To do so, we must set our politics aside for the greater good. America has done it before, time after time. We believe the country will do so again.
There are various policy details that will need to be addressed. But this is the only realistic, workable path now open to us if we want to solve one of the most daunting challenges of our time. We must put a meaningful price on carbon in America, and then convince the rest of the world to follow our lead.
To do so, we must set our politics aside for the greater good. America has done it before, time after time. We believe the country will do so again.

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