The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Traditional legislation is critical factor to drive climate progress

Clean energy measures passed by Congress in the last stimulus package showed further bipartisan momentum toward lowering carbon emissions, providing fresh hope that Congress and the new administration can work together on climate change. This also indicates that traditional legislative vehicles, not broad new proposals, are where real progress can be made. Though Democrats won control of the Senate, which means more clean energy policy areas such as infrastructure will be considered, a narrowly divided chamber will necessitate bipartisan solutions.

The 2020 election sent much of the same narrative. Polls indicate broad support for policy to tackle climate change among voters in both parties. But this support was nuanced in the November results. Independent and conservative voters who helped Republicans take House seats delivered the strong message that they offer very little support for those wholesale transformations embodied within the Green New Deal.

This suggests new ideas are needed for this political moment to provide avenues for both Republicans and Democrats to support climate action while achieving other goals. Congress must craft a clean energy agenda that appeals to future prosperity and sees climate policy as so critical to modern society that it is economic and industrial policy.

So forget about the single massive climate bill strategy which has failed to pass Congress several times over two decades. Climate policy can instead be included in legislation that offers opportunities for bipartisan progress. Infrastructure legislation supported by both parties can reduce emissions from transport, electricity, and buildings while scaling back the consumer costs and paving the way for another era of economic growth. This could take regulatory reform to be most effective. A new farm bill can establish fresh revenue streams for the rural areas while cutting carbon emissions, backing renewable energy, and aiding healthier forests.

Legislation to fund clean energy technology and deployment at scale will create new industries and bolster our international lead. As provisions for the stimulus bill demonstrate, there is bipartisan support for legislation to advance carbon capture, direct removal, and other technology. A federal electricity standard, modeled after the popular state renewable standard, can win broad support from industry and activists. It can offer regulatory clarity with the transition to reduced carbon emissions.

Legislation on each of these issues could move with bipartisan support in a divided Congress. These actions together reveal the start of a coherent federal climate strategy. But making progress has to include calming the economic anxiety of voters today. This means forming the new agenda to change America into an economic leader with reduced carbon emissions, beating the rest of the world with millions of green jobs.

Climate policy must also move beyond the singular designs of a historic environmental movement dominated by liberal constituencies that often focus on regulations above a more sustainable legislative consensus. The recent ascendance for economic fairness and environmental justice as a new force in climate politics is a positive development. But the chorus of voices must reach into rural and industrial America, the economic policy community, as well as the business and financial sectors.

Essential rural voters will not come to the table without tailored legislation that brings agriculture and forestry into the portfolio of climate solutions. Industrial stakeholders will not count on a promise of new jobs in a future clean market, nor will welfare programs be sufficient to win their support. Those at risk of economic dislocation want a brighter future and jobs in a clean market. New programs should assist current workers, including with traditional energy production, through efforts to clean the domestic fossil fuel industries by lowering methane and other emissions.

After years without much climate policy, we are in a moment where major legislative action is possible. The global market of the future will be more defined by energy technology with reduced emissions. As Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin noted, our climate plan should create new jobs and industries at home, send out innovation across the country, and then sell our technology to the rest of the world. Those are proposals that Republicans and Democrats could embrace together.

Sasha Mackler is director of the Energy Project at Bipartisan Policy Center.

Tags Congress Economics Energy Environment Finance Government Policy World

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

See all Hill.TV See all Video

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

Main area bottom

Top Stories

See All

Most Popular

Load more