Two Representatives examined the climate policies under consideration among Republican Party members Tuesday at the Marvin Center.
The politicians discussed the potential impact of the GOP’s climate policies on the party and its constituents. About 30 people attended the event, which was hosted by GW College Republicans and moderated by Quill Robinson, the legislative director of environmental non-profit American Conservation Coalition.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., the ranking member of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said President Donald Trump’s announcement late last month that the United States will be committing to the Trillion Tree Initiative is “proactive and pragmatic.” He said conservatives have an “unspoken obligation” to the past and future and “should be bold in our advocacy for being conservationists” for the environment.
“We’ve got a proud past, and I think we’ve got a proud future,” Westerman said. “I think we just approach conservation and the environment different from a lot of other people.”
Westerman said he supports policies that “incentivize good behavior” rather than punish bad behavior, like the carbon tax, which he said would be “detrimental” to the economy.
“We believe that you can have a good economy and a good environment at the same time,” he said.
He added that the Green New Deal had “no substance,” adding that policies like the Trillion Tree Initiative “realistically” do more to help the environment than the Green New Deal does.
The Green New Deal calls on the United States to fulfill 100 percent of its energy demand from “clean, renewable and zero-emission” sources.
“It’s kind of an alarmist approach,” Westerman said. “It scares people, it’s got a catchy name. We do the hard work and come up with realistic solutions that you can apply that will actually make a difference.”
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said future climate policies should build on existing climate policies that have been successful, like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The two acts protecting vulnerable animals and fighting air pollutants passed under Republican President Richard Nixon’s administration.
“You’ve got to meet people where they are,” Graves said. “One of the things that we do whenever we have gone and presented some of this to Republicans, conservatives, we’ve talked about how look, we’re not asking you to take a hard-left turn, a hard-right turn, a 180. What we’re asking you to do is we’re asking you to double and triple down on the things that have worked.”
He added that the government should expand on previous policies to avoid using the United States as a “laboratory” for testing new climate policies.
“We don’t use your economy and employment opportunities as a laboratory,” he said. “We instead build upon the very strategies that have worked and have resulted in the greatest reductions in the world.”
The United States notched the largest reduction in emissions worldwide with a 0.5 percent decrease, or about 42 million metric tons, in 2017, according to the Institute for Energy Research.
Graves added that he supports an “America First” approach to the issue of climate change.
“This is an opportunity for us to recalibrate and take a step back, and to double and triple down on things that are working, and, quite frankly, exceeding, any other policy approach that Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals have ever come up with,” Graves said.