By Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter
The strategy session is spurred by a growing recognition among some Republican congressional leaders that the party has for too long ceded the debate over climate change to Democrats, according to three House Republican aides who asked not to be named discussing private deliberations.
“There’s been a lot of credibility given to some really crazy and dangerous and irresponsible ideas, and we’ve got to make sure that we are working to inform and educate the public about the dangers of some of these policies,” Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said in an interview.
Graves is set to address his colleagues at the session, along with Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The session comes amid polling showing young voters want politicians to tackle climate change.
It remains to be seen if they can make any change in a party where many of its lawmakers have denied that there are human factors behind climate change and President Donald Trump has called the science showing a warming trend in the Earth’s atmosphere a “hoax.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is convening the special policy conference discussion, which is set to be the first conducted this year. It will be followed by similar gatherings to discuss privacy, technology and other issues that call out for deeper caucus-wide conversations.
Democrats are preparing to advance climate change legislation in the House this spring, potentially forcing some Republicans to take tough votes on the issue before the November elections. The Democrats are trying to exploit Republican discord on the topic, amid growing public alarm over global warming and as ambitious proposals for addressing it, such as the Green New Deal, shift the debate over what should be done.
So far, congressional Republicans have promoted accelerating innovation and green technology — and the meeting is intended to help them convince the public that their proposals would do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Graves said Republicans can offer solutions to climate change that not only do a better job reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally but do so without abandoning traditional conservative values of limited government, low taxes and free markets.
Policies put forth by Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that would throttle fossil fuel development in the U.S. wouldn’t propel economically viable low- and zero-emission technology, the Republican aides said.
The U.S. must keep reducing emissions, but the approach for doing that matters, they added, because if the innovative solutions can’t be attractive for export, they won’t stifle emissions from China and developing countries.
McCarthy said Republicans are identifying “realistic policies” that can build on U.S. progress in lowering emissions “without decimating our own communities and dismantling our economic system as we know it.
“While countries like China and Russia ignore their offenses, actionable and lasting progress will come from the innovations and determination that has powered the United States of America so far,” McCarthy said.
Graves stressed that quashing fossil fuel development in the U.S. could have the perverse effect of increasing greenhouse gases globally, by making the world more reliant on natural gas from Europe and Russia that generates more emissions.
“One of the problems where Democrats have misfired is they’ve deemed oil and gas the enemy when the reality is it is emissions you need to be focusing on,” Graves said. Lawmakers need to be “looking at innovative solutions that have been applied in the United States — not these conceptual pipe dreams.”