The United States’ climate ambition is where it should be—high—but belies our efforts to implement policies to achieve the carbon emissions reductions necessary to prevent catastrophic global temperature increase or sea level rise.
Yes, the administration can make some progress through federal procurement policies, updating Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and using regulations to encourage reduced use of fossil fuels. But those policies are inadequate and lack the permanence of statutes. Now is the time for meaningful climate policies instead of decades of debating ineffective regulations and subsidies.
Congress is not considering cap-and-trade legislation, and the president’s call for a clean energy standard will be in vain because two coal-state senators are at the helm of the Senate committee of jurisdiction.
There is one opportunity we cannot continue to overlook: a carbon tax.
Considering taxes requires political courage. But unlike many of the other climate policies proposed so far, there is a path to enacting a carbon tax. And it can and should be supported by both sides of the aisle. After all, it is the climate policy preferred by economists and, more recently, corporations, and it has conservative roots.
The path to a carbon tax is challenging and narrow in spots. It requires Senate Democrats to propose a carbon tax in reconciliation, most likely as an infrastructure pay-for. In the closely divided Senate, some Democrats are unlikely to support such a proposal, so Republicans must step up to the plate.
Currently, Democrats are pitching to an empty batter’s box. But Republicans are watching. Corporations are also watching and, in the meantime, have carefully crafted their positions, which call for “carbon pricing.” So they are ready for the game to begin.
No, a carbon tax proposed by Democrats will undoubtedly not be the ideal policy, or one that conservatives like me will fully support. But the need to reduce carbon emissions drastically and immediately, paired with the recognition that a carbon tax is the most effective policy and has a path to enactment, is enough. And I will urge Republicans to get in the game and step up to the plate.