Midterms Create New Opportunity for Bipartisan Action

With the midterm elections dividing control between Republicans and Democrats, will Congress produce only partisan bickering and gridlock for the next two years? And will this further delay meaningful US efforts to address global climate change?

Quite the contrary. We are confident the prospects for important steps forward have improved significantly.

While most House Democrats next year will represent districts that vote reliably for Democrats, several come from districts that can vote either way and have indeed voted reliably for Republicans for several years. Simply confronting President Trump will not return these vulnerable Democrats to Washington in 2020. They will have to demonstrate to their constituents that they helped solve some of the nation’s many pressing problems. The next Speaker of the House will be well aware of this and do everything possible to help these vulnerable Democrats pass bills they can talk about proudly back home.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, where a net change of three or four seats would give Democrats the majority, Republicans will be defending 22 seats. Simply supporting President Trump and confirming judges will not return these Republican Senators to Washington. They also will have to show the folks back home that they helped resolve pressing national issues.

The benefit of a divided Congress is that Republicans and Democrats will have to work together if they want to get anything done – as demanded by the constituents of the most vulnerable members of both parties. That doesn’t mean the parties won’t continue fighting over today’s marquee items, and doesn’t mean a conflict-focused media will give marquee treatment to areas of agreement. But it does mean that, below the radar, a great deal of energy will be invested on both sides of the aisle in moving bipartisan common ground legislation on a wide range of topics.

Every lobbying shop in Washington, DC knows this. Since the election, K Street has produced miles of memos for interested clients, identifying the policy areas in which there may be enough common ground for Congress to pass laws. Preexisting health conditions, drug prices, and infrastructure appear on most lists, but there are other important issues where the political imperative can foster progress as well – in some cases by forcing lawmakers to compromise, but in others by liberating them to pursue common ground solutions that have waited years for the right circumstances.

What about climate and clean energy? Is there any prospect for agreement on climate and clean energy policy in the next two years. 

Yes.

Even in the past two years, with the White House and both houses of Congress under the leadership of individuals who have expressed skepticism about climate science while championing fossil fuels, bipartisan agreement has led to the enactment of laws that:

  • Maintained or expanded tax incentives for solar, wind, and carbon capture technologies;

  • Continued funding for the Department of Energy’s renewable energy, energy efficiency, and advanced R&D programs, despite the Trump administration’s repeated demands that they be sharply reduced;

  • Allowed the Department of Defense to continue to assess its vulnerability to climate change and develop non-fossil energy sources.

In addition, the Senate voted to defend Obama-era regulations that required oil and gas companies to limit releases of methane, a potent global warming pollutant.

And that was with climate champions holding almost no cards.

While much more progress is required, and while one may reasonably debate the merits of tax incentives and subsidies that choose technological winners and losers, these examples demonstrate that space for bipartisan action existed even in the out-going Congress. The new Congress will offer much more space.

That said, several Republican members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus were defeated. The Caucus, which is strictly bipartisan - no Democrats are allowed to join unless partnered with a Republican - gives its members a chance to take a public stand on the need to address climate change. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), co-founder of the Caucus and the author of a carbon tax bill, lost his reelection effort. Some observers are wondering how productive it will be for Republicans to work with environmentalists if even the Republican author of a carbon tax bill found himself a Democratic target and undefended by prominent environmental groups. But there is more to the story.

Nineteen Republican members of the Climate Solutions Caucus found exploration of climate solutions to be part of a winning formula, including the Curbelo bill’s two Republican cosponsors, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Francis Rooney (R-FL), and the current co-chair of the Caucus, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Even with the midterm losses, more Republicans will return to the House in January as members of the Caucus than did two years ago.

Furthermore, conservation and stewardship are traditional Republican values, and polls show that significant numbers of Republicans believe effects of global warming have begun, and that it is caused by human activities (41% and 40% respectively in a March 2018 Gallup poll). Conservative groups that support action on climate and clean energy continue to grow. Several focus on explaining the economic, public health, national security, and moral implications of climate change to conservative voters and policy makers, while some advocate for concrete solutions consistent with conservative values, including policies that would put a price on carbon without growing the size of government. 

What kinds of climate and clean energy measures might pass a Congress in which both parties are forced, or freed, to find common ground? To name one, Republican and Democratic bills have been introduced in this Congress that would create a carbon price, not through a carbon tax, but through the inverse – establishing tax incentives for energy technologies that either have no carbon emissions or sharply-reduced carbon emissions. Republicans like tax cuts, including those for clean energy technologies, and Democrats like clean energy technologies, including those advanced through tax cuts.  

Another area of common ground is renewable energy, which of course is part of the solution to climate change. Polls show solid and growing support for renewable energy among both Republican and Democratic voters. Nevada voters, for example, just passed a measure to increase their renewable energy standard for electricity to 50% by 2030, joining a growing number of cities, states, and even countries.

Clearly, bipartisan cooperation on any issue has proved challenging recently. But this new political context offers real opportunities for progress on climate and clean energy – progress that can be sustained if it has bipartisan support. This is where our efforts must be directed. 


Manik Roy, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow with DEPLOY/US and President of Roy Climate, LLC. CAPT Robin Tyner (US Navy, ret.) is a Senior Fellow with DEPLOY/US and a Director of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship.

"We Are Still In" is not enough

Over the past twelve months, the role of the federal government in climate policy has shifted dramatically. President Trump and his administration are offering a federal energy agenda that downplays climate risk and actively improves prospects for coal-fired electricity, natural gas trade, and petroleum exploration. As a result, today’s climate and renewable energy landscape is dominated by vocal companies and individuals outside of Washington, like the “We Are Still In” campaign, who recognize the climate risks and the tremendous economic opportunities associated with clean energy.

The pivotal moment was President Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw from and renegotiate the Paris Accord in favor of “terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” This was a major shift in international climate diplomacy and galvanized efforts by U.S. states, cities, and private companies to, “provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment” and pursue “aggressive climate action.” Research, advocacy, and philanthropic investments followed, emphasizing the role of and opportunity for state governments to address climate change.

States have a number of tools at their disposal to address greenhouse gas emissions. Many establish operating guidelines for utilities that can include specific standards for the amount of electricity derived from low- or no-carbon sources; all can add a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme into the power markets without any permission from federal authorities. States already establish taxes on transportation fuels, an authority that can be adapted to carbon targets. They can alter building codes, requiring higher levels of efficiency from all new construction. States can offer incentives to companies that reduce or otherwise alter energy usage, directing tax revenue to private sector partners. All of these authorities give states the ability to make meaningful reductions now in pursuit of satisfying greenhouse gas reduction ambitions.

However, states particularly invested in greenhouse gas reductions - those that have signed the We Are Still In pledge or joined the U.S. Climate Alliance - represent less than 40 percent of domestic climate emissions. On their own, these states are incapable of achieving reductions meaningful to the Paris Agreement or capable of meeting the climate challenge.

 

  Source:   National Geographic    States in green have joined the  U.S. Climate Alliance , states in blue have pledged to follow commitments to the Paris Agreement, cities in purple have signed on to the  Mayors National Climate Action Agenda .

Source: National Geographic

States in green have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, states in blue have pledged to follow commitments to the Paris Agreement, cities in purple have signed on to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Turning to American cities - like the nearly 400 that have joined the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, which adopts the Paris climate goals - doesn’t change the calculus. According to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization of more than 90 global cities uniting to address the climate challenge, “if all U.S. cities with populations over 50,000 followed the ambitions of C40 cities” they would still achieve just 36 percent of the total needed to achieve U.S. 2025 emissions targets.

The climate challenge is created by and impacts every community, country, and continent in varying degrees. Solutions must be implemented at the same level: As a planet, we must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The global nature of the problem implies that the U.S. federal government must be involved for three reasons.

1. Every climate solution carries economic costs that have and will continue to have huge implications for the balance of global trade, development, and the success of regional economies.
Countries alone are capable of negotiating not just the international commitments to address this challenge, but also the trade agreements that will ensure that mitigation costs will not encourage some countries to shirk responsibilities and free ride on the mitigation efforts of others.

2. The federal government is charged with the responsibility to address environmental challenges at scale.
The Clean Air Act, state petitions, and the Supreme Court have all delegated the role of identifying environmental risks and enforcing mitigation pathways to the federal government and the federal government alone. While states and localities can set examples for optimal, economical greenhouse gas reduction strategies, only the federal system can compel adherence and provide the stability and clarity for interstate and international trade necessary for a mitigation pathway to have long-term efficacy.

3. The federal government simply has more effective tools at its disposal than the states.
The federal government has unique capabilities for research, data collection, and information exchange that will help identify the best routes for efficiency improvements and emissions reductions over the long-term. Thanks to the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, federal authorities are enshrined for any sector of the economy that hinges on interstate trade, like long-haul transportation, domestic electricity markets, minimum performance standards for industrial facilities, appliance standards, and the power to price carbon economy-wide through regulations or the tax code.

To achieve an effective global response to the climate challenge requires the exercise of federal authorities. Even those states eager to adopt the most ambitious climate mitigation strategies will serve primarily as a testing ground for emissions reductions efforts; they will not create the short-term emissions reductions necessary to attain U.S. goals as outlined in the Paris Accord or reclaim long-term U.S. leadership in international climate mitigation and diplomacy. There is no replacement for a strong, federal role in addressing greenhouse gas reductions. Fortunately, the window for bipartisan federal action is opening.


Catrina Rorke, Senior Fellow with DEPLOY/US, is a leader in the right-of-center field who is dedicated to clarifying a well-defined and limited role for government in shaping policies for a cleaner, more secure and more abundant energy future.

Collective strength and courage

Dear Friends, 

One of the highlights of my life, before starting a family, was a three-week winter-camping trip in the White Mountains. I vividly remember the beauty of the woods in the winter and three very cold days spent on a “solo," sleeping in a snow shelter I had built. On the second day, the trip leader noticed that my fire wasn’t burning and came up the hill. Initially, I felt that asking for help was a sign of failure. But, I soon learned that it was actually a sign of strength and courage.   
 
Today, I am once again looking out at sparkling, snow-covered woods. And, I am once again asking for help. 

DEPLOY/US has accomplished more in 2017 than I could have imagined. We have built a remarkable, influential network that spans the political spectrum. We have conducted ground-breaking research to document the political opportunity and the steps that must be taken to seize it. Together with our partners, we have brought our unique “military, money, and morals” network to key audiences – from Capitol Hill, to Earth Day Texas, to the mainstream media. 

2018 is a critical year for climate action. DEPLOY/US’ work to amplify and accelerate authentic conservative leadership is more urgently needed than ever before. 
  
Seizing the opportunity in 2018 will require our collective strength and courage. We cannot do this without you. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to DEPLOY/US this holiday season.
 
With gratitude,

Andrea Strimling Yodsampa
Founder & CEO, DEPLOY/US

Welcome!

After the November 2016 elections, DEPLOY/US, the non-partisan, not-for-profit organization I had founded several years earlier to fill a strategic gap in the climate and clean energy space, was suddenly at the center of national conversations. Our unique, cross-sector strategy and exceptional network were uniquely positioned for political moment. 

Seizing this opportunity, DEPLOY/US focused on building momentum and expanding our influential network of climate and clean energy leaders. We began 2017 by adding two team members: Senior Advisor for Capacity, Siobhán O'Riordan, and Program Manager, Cassy Krueger. Siobhan has guided DEPLOY/US in honing our strategy and expanding our reach far beyond what I could have imagined in 2015. Cassy has put in place key systems necessary for long-term sustainability and impact, managed our programs and communications, and led us in obtaining our 501(c)3 status.

This summer, DEPLOY/US welcomed two Senior Fellows, Catrina Rorke and Dr. Manik (Nikki) Roy. Catrina founded the energy programs at both R Street Institute and American Action Forum and served on the staff of former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC). Nikki served as director of political assessment with the ClimateWorks Foundation and vice president for strategic outreach with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Together, they bring a wealth of complementary expertise in policy and strategic philanthropy to the DEPLOY/US team.

We've crafted this new website to better reflect the opportunity that unites our team, our aspirations for the future of U.S. climate and clean energy policy, and our work in pursuit of that vision.

The information presented in our website is intended to start a conversation. We invite you to contact us with your questions, thoughts, and ideas. Our team looks forward to working with you on building our climate and clean energy future, together.

Warm regards,

Andrea Strimling Yodsampa
CEO, DEPLOY/US

Shared Purpose

Dear Friends,

We in the climate action community have been deeply affected by the events of the last week. We are acutely aware of the multifaceted risks of climate change, as well as the urgent need for global action. The election of President-elect Donald Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax" and threatened to roll back hard-won progress, has left many people understandably frightened.

Having said that, our community is also privileged to be able to turn our concern into action. This is our commitment at DEPLOY/US.

We have spent the past two years working with an extraordinary network of leaders across the political spectrum. This network includes not only environmental leaders, scientists, activists, and donors, but also entrepreneurs, investors, military officers, business leaders, conservative faith leaders, and conservative thought leaders, all of whom are committed to responsible action on climate and energy. Sure, the reasons for engagement vary, as do opinions about exactly what should be done. But, nonetheless, there is a deeply felt, shared commitment to action.

This community's shared purpose and willingness to engage honestly around differences inspires us and gives us confidence that we can make progress in our new, very challenging, political context. It also illuminates a critical next frontier of climate and clean energy efforts. The risks of climate change affect us all, and we all have a stake in solutions. Many are already working to support, empower, fund, and create space for conservatives to put forward meaningful climate and energy solutions that can then compete in the marketplace of ideas. Those of us who are serious about forging solutions must look for ways to help these efforts succeed. In this new political environment, this work is more important than ever.

We will share more in the coming weeks and months about concrete ways in which you can contribute.

Thank you for being part of this vitally important work.

Warmly,

Andrea Strimling Yodsampa, CEO