Guest opinion: We need comprehensive, bipartisan climate legislation

The climate is changing – there can be little doubt about that given overwhelming scientific evidence. Effective solutions are urgently needed to mitigate future economic and environmental harm. While President Biden campaigned on promises of sweeping climate legislation, any meaningful climate policy will need support from Congress to become law. With the Senate split between parties, serious legislation will need to pass through pragmatic Senators like Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin.  Though the administration may bypass Congress using executive orders and regulatory mechanisms, those efforts may spend years languishing in court only to be struck down as unconstitutional. Democrats should work across the aisle in the Senate and pass the most viable bipartisan legislative approach to climate change: the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan.

Young people like us are rallying behind Carbon Dividends because it is fast-actingeconomically advantageous, and politically viable. Baker-Shultz would reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 57% by 2035 and create 1.6 million jobs, while avoiding the risks of long court battles posed by a regulation-first climate agenda. . A Carbon Dividends plan would also avoid the dramatic and unrealistic burden placed on Utah’s businesses and economy from irresponsible proposals like the Green New Deal.  

With the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it is now less likely that regulatory approaches to climate change would be considered constitutional at all if brought before the Supreme Court. Additionally, 30% of circuit court judges have been appointed by President Trump and are expected to have a much more critical view of the administrative state, which would include environmental regulators. This foretells of court battles taking years to resolve and millions in legal costs if Biden attempts to enact a regulatory climate agenda. 

The solution is clear: a legislative, bipartisan approach that eschews these risks entirely. The Carbon Dividends plan would put an economy-wide price on carbon, rebate the revenue to the American people, roll back now-redundant regulations, and hold polluters abroad accountable with a border carbon adjustment. All of this would be achieved in one bill through Congress and be effective almost immediately. It carries the immense political strength of the endorsement of over 3,500 economists–including 26 from universities in Utah–and backing from both environmental NGOs and some of the largest corporations on Earth. It touts the support of Utah business leadersprestigious Republican policymakers, and many College Republican leaders in Utah, including us. Having worked in Republican politics for years, we can attest that our peers across the state want sensible climate policy and are hopeful our Republican elected officials work across the aisle to get it done. 

The Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan is a political opportunity for Congressional Republicans and President Biden to unify our deeply polarized body politic. Nationwide, this plan boasts two-thirds of voters supporting it, including 2 to 1 support among Republicans. In Utah, 70% of voters and 65% of conservatives support it. On top of that, the carbon price marries with the Border Carbon Adjustment so that cleaner-producing American businesses can win, boosting the competitiveness of Utah’s tech industry in international markets.

As Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center argued quite effectively, the time to put a price on carbon is now.  We cannot afford the risk of waiting any longer, and we must enact the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends plan immediately to begin to solve the climate challenge by driving down emissions, all while creating millions of new jobs and putting money in the hands of the American people. The stakes are high, but the opportunity for bipartisanship is great.

Mackey Smith is the Chairman of the Utah Young Republicans and Gibson Green is the Vice Chairwoman of the Utah Young Republicans