By: Trevor Nichols
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently closed the G20 summit citing the “unfortunate” position the United States was in compared to the other nineteen members of the G20 who remain committed to the Paris climate accord.[i] The Chancellor’s statements were seemingly borne from the intention of ringing the proverbial bell, however, President Trump’s position on climate change, somewhat uncharacteristically, has stood firm since he learned “[t]he concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”[ii] (However, it would not be uncharacteristic for our President’s position on the issue to bend in the future.[iii])
Despite our Republican President’s unruly stance on climate change, other members of his party have taken a different approach. A group called the Climate Leadership Counsel recently proposed to support the fight against global climate change by “taxing greenhouse gas emissions and returning the money to taxpayers.”
The Counsel, made up of “founding members” such as BP Global, Exxon Mobil, GM, Shell, Michael Bloomberg, and Stephen Hawking to name a few,[v] have joined together to develop “a consensus climate solution that bridges partisan divides, strengthens [the American] economy and protects our shared environment.”[vi]
The Council’s “solution” to global climate change hopes to use free markets and limited government to implement a “gradually rising revenue-neutral carbon tax” while simultaneously rolling back unnecessary regulations.[vii]
Although the motivation seems noble on its face, not all are convinced by yet another Republican promise to cut the regulatory red tape and put more money in the pockets of Americans. Left-of-conservative thinkers are not confident that a market-driven approach will have a better effect in reducing emissions than regulations would.[viii]
Cynicism likely springs from a portion of the Council’s proposal that suggests companies that emit greenhouse gases should be protected from lawsuits for their contribution to climate change.[ix]
When it comes to protecting our environment, one is hard-pressed to argue against progress—if it really is progress. Although this proposal obviously needs more vetting, if stagnant climate litigation can transform into a cut in American carbon pollution, if accountability on behalf of large corporations can be agreed upon, and if average Americans can benefit financially all at the same time, this may be a climate solution progressives can get behind.
While the German Chancellor and our President have made their disagreement clear, an America that recognizes climate change just may be the first step in achieving world-wide consensus.
[i] Angela Dewan & Stephanie Halasz, G20 closes with rebuke to Trump's climate change stance, cnn, (July 9, 2017), http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/08/europe/g20-merkel-trump-communique/index.html.
[ii] Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Nov. 6, 2012, 11:15 AM), https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/265895292191248385?lang=en.
[iii] Madeleine Sheehan Perkins & Rebecca Harrington, It’s 'an Expensive hoax' — and Other Things Trump Has Said About Climate Change, Bus. Insider (June 3, 2017, 12:43 AM), http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-climate-change-global-warming-beliefs-2017-6.
[iv] John Schwartz, Exxon Mobil Lends Its Support to a Carbon Tax Proposal, The N.Y. Times (June 20, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/science/exxon-carbon-tax.html?_r=0.
[v] Corporate Founding Members, Climate Leadership Council, https://www.clcouncil.org/founding-members/ (last visited July 18, 2017).
[vi] The Consensus Climate Solution, Climate Leadership Council (June 20, 2017), https://www.clcouncil.org/wp content/uploads/2017/06/Climate_Leadership_Council_WSJ_Ad.pdf.
[viii] See Birnbaum supra note ii.