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OPINION

America First Policies Can Solve the Climate Challenge

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Americans of all ages benefit from clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet. Why, then, is the left ignoring the biggest impediment to each while targeting families and our most vulnerable seniors with a left wing socialist agenda worse than the climate problem they purport to solve?

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While it would be impossible to list every progressive pipedream embedded in plans like the Green New Deal, the bottom line is that their preference is to weaken the American economy by reducing its competitiveness.

The totally disingenuous part of the left’s so-called climate agenda is that it is really social policy disguised as environmental policy. Contrary to their simplistic attacks against conservative climate ambition, most Republicans I know strongly support reducing pollution – we just happen to prefer policies that actually solve the problem.

The left’s anti-American agenda also completely ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room: record levels of foreign pollution. In 2021, China’s emissions exceeded the entirety of the developed world’s combined. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the United States has actually led the world in emissions reductions for years.

By disregarding this reality in favor of attacking our own businesses, the left is on the side of outsourcing American jobs and destroying local economies — a disturbing trend amidst a pandemic that has already heavily shifted consumption to goods over services and sent imports surging alongside a stagnation in production.

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Perhaps the left would better understand the issue if framed it in their own language: if the problem with climate change is corporations creating unsustainable amounts of pollution, isn’t the solution to redirect manufacturing to the corporations emitting the least amount? The answer is yes, and in the vast majority of cases, those cleaner producers are American.

This concept is called a carbon advantage, and so far our government has failed to monetize it. For example, to make the exact same pharmaceuticals, U.S. companies use 2.6 times less pollution than their Chinese competitors. That also goes for vehicles (2.4 times), electronics (5.7 times), and virtually every other sector of the economy. Not to mention virtually every energy source mined or produced in the United States is done in a cleaner, environmentally friendlier manner.

Surely it would be better to reward our businesses for their innovations rather than continuing to allow the CCP to enrich themselves by flooding our markets with cheap and dirty goods? Our economy — and planet — would be substantially better off for it.

This type of accountability is long overdue but will only come about if we dictate the terms.

Arguably the most effective way we can hold these foreign emitters accountable is by auditing their pollution at the border—the preferred approach of job creators like the steel industry. By implementing this America First climate policy, polluting manufacturers in China would become much less competitive with American companies that are already making the same products better.

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Robert Lighthizer — the architect of the Trump Administration’s America First trade agenda — explains the need for such a mechanism succinctly: “When you let polluters sell in your market without a border adjustment you are losing U.S. jobs in the competing industries and essentially you are subsidizing the polluters. This makes no sense.”

Coordinating this response with our Western allies — a strategy encouraged by former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) — would further alienate these types of bad actors by disincentivizing their goods in numerous economies. Just last year, Vladimir Putin’s own advisors privately warned such a move would damage the Russian economy far more than sanctions could.

With this in mind, could the current Ukraine crisis and economic reckoning with Russia present Congress a window of opportunity to level the playing field for U.S. businesses and return jobs to where they rightfully belong? It sure seems that way, so it’s promising to hear the policy emerge in discussions among Republicans and Senator Joe Manchin, the one remaining sensible moderate Democrat.

If lawmakers are serious about protecting the environment—and seniors in the process—they would do well to abandon the failed strategy of Washington-based bureaucracy and instead embrace a new approach which prioritizes global accountability and cleaner American manufacturing. Republicans should lead on an America First climate policy that holds China and Russia accountable and shows the rest of the world that America is standing up for itself again.

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Saul Anuzis is president of 60 Plus, the American association of senior citizens.

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