Carbon Dividends: A Plan for Republicans on Climate Change

Carbon Dividends: A Plan for Republicans on Climate Change
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With the inauguration of President Biden, Democrats officially control the White House and Senate, and the environmental left is already dreaming up ways to push Green New Deal-style policies that would be detrimental to the American economy, without doing much to mitigate climate change at all. Republicans in the Senate are well-positioned to push back against many of these misguided proposals, but in a divided Senate in which Vice President Kamala Harris is the deciding vote, simply being the party of “no” is neither sufficient, nor wise. That is, unless Republicans respond with a comprehensive emissions-reducing solution of their own: the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan; a policy rooted in the conservative principles of free markets and limited government. 

Young people across the country are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by climate change. 85% of Republicans under 40 list climate as a top concern, and 69% of Republican voters overall are worried that the party’s stance on climate change is hurting them with young voters. It is not just the environmentalists and activists on the Left who want action on this issue, it is a wide swath of young voters, including young Republicans. 

That is why Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends (YCCD) was founded: to champion a conservative solution to climate change, and to provide a clear contrast to the failed command-and-control solutions that have dominated the climate conversation for far too long. Co-founded in December of 2019 by 30 top leaders from within the youth wing of the Republican Party, YCCD has been showcasing the broad support among young conservatives for a free-market climate solution.

In contrast to the massive expansion of bureaucracy and government spending being pushed by an emboldened left flank of the Democratic Party, the Carbon Dividends plan would shrink the size of government, and reduce emissions more than all Obama-era regulations combined, outpacing the goals laid out by the Paris Climate Accords

This approach relies on what virtually all economists agree is the most powerful tool to combat climate change: an economy-wide price on carbon. Such a policy would unleash the full force of American innovation and entrepreneurship to rapidly lower emissions, rather than rely on the heavy hand of government regulations that for decades have failed to adequately respond to the challenge. 

As a legislative plan, Carbon Dividends offers a lasting solution to the climate issue by establishing a permanent and clear market signal to ensure emissions reductions well into the future, without being subject to the whims of changing administrations. Further, whereas households end up bearing the hidden costs of the regulatory approach favored by the Left, the Carbon Dividends approach is completely transparent: all of the money raised by a price on carbon gets returned directly to the American people in the form of a quarterly “Dividend” check.

Perhaps most importantly, the plan would leverage American leadership through a border carbon adjustment that would incentivize high emitting countries like China to reduce their emissions while maintaining a competitive advantage for cleaner American manufacturers. This comprehensive approach is exactly what Republicans need to meet the challenge of climate change in a way that government regulations cannot. And by providing much needed market certainty to American innovators, the Carbon Dividends plan would lead to an increase of 1.6 million U.S. jobs and $1.4T in GDP.

Some who advocate for big-government solutions to climate change often do so with claims that only their ideas go far enough to address the problem of carbon emissions and that market-based solutions are insufficient. 

Republicans should challenge these claims by supporting a plan that incentivizes decarbonization immediately; one that would lead to a 57% reduction in CO2 by 2035. And instead of trying to pull one lever at a time through a myriad of regulations, Carbon Dividends enlists the entire market economy to efficiently pull thousands of levers at once. 

That is why the plan boasts the support of some of the nation’s largest job creators and innovators, as well as 3,500 American economists, and a plethora of political leaders on both sides of the aisle. It is clear that conservatives have the better solution, and should lead accordingly.

If we truly believe (as we should) that urgency is merited in dealing with the climate issue, then we can’t gamble on a regulatory agenda that takes years to implement and may be struck down in court or executive actions that can be easily undone by the next administration. If what conservatives often claim is true – that many of these policies are merely a trojan horse for bigger government and picking winners and losers – this is the time to prove it.

This moment demands a legislative solution that truly stands athwart, yelling “stop”, and doesn't rack up trillions more in debt for the nation. It demands an approach that will dramatically reduce emissions, grow the American economy, protect families, and can garner bipartisan support in Congress. 

The time has come for Republican leaders to look to the youth wing of the party, who are clamoring for the GOP to have a seat at the table, and promote the Carbon Dividends plan as the best way forward. Doing so would mean proudly reclaiming the mantle of conservative environmental leadership, and ensuring a cleaner, more prosperous America for future generations.


Chris Johnson is Managing Director of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends. 

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