For too long, the political debate about sustainability and the environment has been dominated by the left. For years, Republicans have ceded the issue, failing to present a concrete plan on how to address the environmental reality that is climate change. But denial is no longer an option: according to Pew, 63% of Americans describe climate change as a threat to their communities and 65% believe that the government must do more to address this problem. Conservatives must understand that the time to present a realistic, market-driven plan to address the climate crisis and build a truly sustainable future is now.
Perhaps the most prominent “climate change” plan out there is the Green New Deal. While proponents might claim that it promises a sustainable future, the Green New Deal is the very definition of unsustainable. Estimates of its cost range from $50 to $90 trillion over ten years, more than twice the current federal budget. Its provisions include, among other things, upgrading every building in the United States to achieve maximum energy efficiency, a Federal jobs guarantee and Medicare for All. That might sound crazy to you because, well, it is. And you wouldn’t be alone if you asked what, exactly, all of this has to do with the environment. In fact, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former Chief of Staff said the quiet part out loud, admitting the Green New Deal “wasn’t originally a climate thing at all” but rather a “how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” Doubling our national budget for a socialist takeover of the economy hardly sounds like a sustainable (or serious) approach to our climate future.
Although Joe Biden initially signaled support for the Green New Deal, he released his own climate plan over the summer. The plan is, admittedly, far more realistic and reasonable than the Green New Deal. Still, its basic approach of top-down regulation, taxing and spending promises to stunt growth and innovation while hurting American families. At a cost of $2 trillion over four years, the yearly cost of the plan is more than three times that of the 2017 tax cuts often maligned by the left. Moreover, the Biden plan includes raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% — a dangerous move in the midst of a recession that has left millions of Americans unemployed. And those who think that corporations will bear the costs of Biden’s increased regulation are sorely mistaken. Draconian regulations on car and appliance production and home-building are sure to raise prices for low-and-middle-income Americans.
Instead, we must turn to climate solutions which incentivize growth and innovation as a way of ensuring sustainability. It is only fair to acknowledge two aspects of the Biden plan which embody this ethos: a commitment to investing in nuclear power and carbon capture technology. Nuclear power represents our best and most reliable source of clean energy production, and it must be a cornerstone of any serious climate plan. Carbon capture technology is also a promising way to reduce emissions as we continue to transition away from carbon-based fuels. A cap-and-trade system also might be an important solution to climate change. By setting caps on industry or economy-wide carbon emissions and allowing firms to “trade” their allowances, cap-and-trade incentivizes innovation and emissions reductions while giving firms the necessary flexibility. Instead of strict regulation and rule by government decree, a sustainable climate plan must create market incentives that spur innovation while protecting workers and families. There is no silver bullet, but by using the power of markets and American innovation, we can build a sustainable future.