Editor's note: This column was authored by Jordan Lancaster.
In April, freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) unveiled his “Green Real Deal” proposal, a legislative response to the controversial Green New Deal that’s gaining traction among the Democrats. The right has heavily criticized the Green New Deal because of the drastic measures it includes, like a $32 trillion Medicare for All plan and a call to convert the country to 100 percent clean power. Yet Republicans should recognize that their lack of engagement with environmental issues is what creates an opportunity for radical left-wing policies to rise—so the GOP ought to applaud Gaetz’s leadership and initiative on climate change.
When Republicans refuse to discuss the real problem of climate change, radical bills—even ones that would destroy the economy like the Green New Deal—can seem like the only alternative. With only one side dominating the conversation, naturally, proposed solutions will reflect the ideology of only that side. But if Republicans addressed climate change head-on and proposed reasonable solutions, they could reject over-burdensome regulations that stifle American innovation.
Rep. Gaetz is doing just that. He said at a recent press conference that he wants to shift the conversation from Republicans denying climate change to focusing on how to solve it. “I didn’t come to Congress to argue with a thermometer,” the congressman said.
Gaetz calls his bill a “love letter to the American innovator.” Based around the concept of free market environmentalism, the Green Real Deal has four main pillars: the expansion of American intellectual property; the modernization of our electric grid to allow for renewable power; the opening of federal lands for renewable energy resources like solar cells and hydropower; and a new technology doctrine to eliminate burdensome regulations on things like nuclear energy.
With his bold initiative, the freshman representative has paved the way for free market environmentalism to enter the crucial conversation about climate change. Republicans claim their platform exists to promote free market values—so why shouldn’t free market environmentalism fall under that umbrella?
After all, the facts are on their side. The government has failed time and time again in this area; as regulations increase but environmental quality lacks improvement.
In 2015, the EPA formally initiated the Clean Power Plan, demanding that businesses reduce their emissions. Yet even with this plan enforcing heavy restrictions, carbon emissions continued to rise, and businesses paid the price. Not only was the Clean Power Plan ineffective, it cost the economy an estimated average of $112 billion annually.
Instead, Republicans should promote policies that embrace the free and competitive market, voluntary cooperation, and protection of property rights—yet also address valid environmental concerns.
For example, voluntary agreements have shown positive results in the past. The EPA’s voluntary partnership plan has saved $37 billion in taxpayer dollars and prevented 470 million tons of carbon emissions. Voluntary partnerships, like ones proposed by the Green Real Deal, give businesses the individual freedom to decide the best way to reduce emissions for their unique company, encouraging them to grow from positive PR. Most importantly, they reduce emissions and invest in green innovation.
So before laughing at the absurdity of the $93 trillion Green New Deal, the right should ask itself how we got here.
We’ve allowed the left to dominate the conversation around environmental policy for far too long, leaving us with only radical proposals on the table. While Republicans dismiss climate change as a non-issue, the left dominates the conversation, even though the facts support the kinds of free market solutions Republicans praise. So we should get behind Gaetz’s pioneering of conservative environmentalism, and take back the climate change narrative from the Democrats once and for all.
Jordan Lancaster is a contributor for the libertarian media nonprofit Young Voices, and works as a digital media associate for the American Conservative Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving conservatives a voice on environmental issues.