Opinion | How the Next Republican President Can Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change

By maneuvering previous each their very own historical past of denialism and public fatigue with the left’s alarmism and naivete, conservatives can put collectively a sensible, and even successful, world local weather agenda — particularly as they eye management of Congress subsequent yr and GOP presidential candidates take a look at the waters for 2024. A Republican world local weather agenda ought to mirror conventional conservative help for a sturdy international coverage that prioritizes U.S. pursuits and values. This might entail, above all, publicly holding China, Russia and different egregious polluters to account — and utilizing America’s financial clout to impose actual prices when vital. Extra broadly, a GOP strategy would jettison the focus on local weather as a standalone difficulty in worldwide diplomacy and as a substitute incorporate it into associated efforts on commerce, worldwide funding, human rights and safety. This technique can be according to Republicans’ extra hawkish international coverage instincts and — extra importantly — present a sensible different to the quixotic and more and more discredited liberal paradigm for world local weather motion.

Former President Donald Trump’s strategy to local weather largely started and ended with withdrawal from the Paris Settlement. In actual fact, the United States seems to be stronger for being at the desk alongside allies and companions, particularly when its major rivals for world affect can’t be bothered to point out up. However as a substitute of acquiescing in the charade of nonbinding agreements, a Republican administration would use worldwide fora to publicly maintain China, Russia and different polluters’ toes to the fireplace, insisting on legally binding, clear and enforceable commitments to cut back emissions — then strolling away if these fail to materialize.

A conservative strategy would make a lot stronger use of sticks in addition to carrots to discourage and punish the worst local weather abusers. As overseer of the world’s reserve foreign money, the United States possesses a uniquely devastating means to incentivize local weather motion by means of sanctions and different types of financial statecraft. One easy manner to do that can be increasing the International Magnitsky program, which targets human rights abuse and corruption, to incorporate cases of significant environmental hurt, akin to these answerable for China’s dirtiest abroad coal crops. This strategy would have bipartisan attraction; in actual fact, Sen. Ed Markey has introduced a bill to this impact and several other Republican places of work have expressed curiosity. Much more bold can be a devoted “inexperienced sanctions” program, authorizing sanctions in opposition to particular industries or actions as a substitute of simply concentrating on particular person folks and corporations.

U.S. regulation enforcement has distinctive jurisdictional attain to extradite and maintain accountable the world’s worst criminals, from druglords to cash launderers, however this has but to be tapped for polluters. A future Republican administration may even supercharge President Joe Biden’s laudable commitment to combating kleptocracy with Trump-style “most stress” enforcement campaigns in opposition to regimes engaged in the most environmentally dangerous types of illicit exercise. Transnational crime and corruption are main drivers of unlawful deforestation and different types of environmental degradation that gasoline local weather change, and the membership overlap between the GOP local weather caucus and new counter-kleptocracy caucus isn’t any coincidence.

If a future GOP administration and Congress actually wished to go giant on policing local weather abuse, they might transfer past inexperienced sanctions and concentrating on corruption to instantly criminalize “ecocide,” the most egregious types of environmental abuse. This may embody, for instance, these answerable for the Maduro and Ortega regimes’ unlawful deforestation and strip mining.

That is, in fact, a confrontational path that Democratic administrations, anxious to protect any chance for cooperation with China and different adversaries, have but to tread in the context of local weather change. And it’s true that utilized bluntly, such measures will be counter-productive. Regardless of India’s poor report on local weather, for instance, it shouldn’t be reduce off from the world monetary system. But the use of extra focused measures in opposition to people, firms and different sub-state entities is definitely justified to discourage and punish the world’s worst polluters. As Edoardo Saravalle points out, “If a program as internationally unpopular as the Iran sanctions can reshape worldwide financial flows, think about the impression that sanctions for local weather change may have.”

In tandem with taking a harder line on local weather offenders, future Republican administrations ought to improve significant local weather cooperation with allies and companions. This consists of placing new commerce offers and improvement help that incorporate local weather considerations, particularly in international locations dissatisfied with the environmental injury and corruption wrought by China’s Belt and Street Initiative.

To make sure, the Biden administration is attempting to undertake this actual strategy, evidenced by a recent deal with the EU on limiting “soiled metal” from China. However a Republican administration (at the least not one run by Trump) would focus much less on tariffs and different restrictive measures and extra on utilizing free commerce and funding to unlock inexperienced expertise. Presently, the focus on regulating fossil fuels out of existence with out viable alternate options threatens American jobs, generates larger vitality payments and advantages China because it continues to burn coal with abandon. Extra aggressively reshoring the manufacturing of recent inexperienced tech to the United States, and “ally-shoring” to deepen commerce hyperlinks with companions, may also guarantee the financial advantages are shared by the American folks and throughout the democratic world.

In fact, the success of local weather coverage overseas will rely on how credibly the U.S. works to cut back emissions at dwelling. Right here the United States is already on stronger floor than the alarmists wish to acknowledge, having achieved significant reductions in the previous decade whereas China, India and different main powers’ emissions proceed to skyrocket. A Republican administration and Congress may speed up this with new help for climate-friendly innovation and expertise, rolling out bold new hydropower and nuclear initiatives, and incentivizing pure options akin to reforestation on federal and personal lands.

Taken collectively, the pillars of this strategy — accountability for polluting international locations, serving to allies spend money on climate-friendly expertise and persevering with to foster a market-based strategy to emissions at dwelling — would combine local weather into the broader U.S. world agenda. This might be a more practical strategy than treating local weather as its personal diplomatic monitor, as John Kerry seems to have been doing in the run-up to COP26.

One apparent impediment for Republican lawmakers is that Trump could also be re-elected or use his appreciable affect to dam a celebration reset on local weather. Certainly, “America First” has taken maintain in the celebration, and we’re unlikely to see a whole return to the muscular however extra benign internationalism championed by Republicans like John McCain. Realistically, the subsequent Republican president might want to stability the celebration’s extra nationalist impulses whereas partaking allies and companions in a extra subtle manner than Trump did — significantly to unite international locations in opposition to a rising China. A coherent strategy to local weather change is a vital a part of this and is an space the place “America First” may really assist inform a helpful coverage shift.

As Curtis of the Conservative Climate Caucus instructed POLITICO, “It is time for us to come back ahead with our concepts… we would like a seat at the desk.” Republican leaders have a chance to leapfrog from discredited denialism, skip the quixotic strategy that was on show at COP26, and embrace a sturdy strategy to U.S. local weather management that actually places America First — but in addition delivers for the planet.

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