A group of Republicans, led by Utah Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), introduced a new Republican-only Conservative Climate Caucus, aimed at educating fellow House lawmakers on climate policies that align with the GOP and reduce carbon emissions.
"Republicans have conservative solutions to lower emissions while enhancing economic prosperity," Curtis said in a statement Wednesday. "We do care about climate – and we already have solutions and plan to find more."
The newly announced Conservative Climate Caucus reflects a changing wave in the GOP — and a break from former President Donald Trump, who had previously called climate change "mythical" and an "expensive hoax" on his now-suspended Twitter account.
In contrast, the new caucus explicitly acknowledges climate change. "The climate is changing, and decades of a global industrial era that has brought prosperity to the world has also contributed to that change," according to a statement announcing the new caucus.
Continued fossil fuel reliance
Nevertheless, the solutions outlined by the caucus include continued reliance on fossil fuels and more private sector innovation. "Reducing emissions is the goal, not reducing energy choices," the statement reads. And while they acknowledge climate change is a global issue, the group says China is "the greatest immediate obstacle to reducing world emissions."
"Proposals to reduce emissions and be good stewards of the earth do not have to hurt the American economy. In fact, they do the opposite," Curtis said in the statement. "There is a way to lower global emissions without sacrificing American jobs and principles – and I believe Republicans are the ones that can and should be leading the charge."
In 2019, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) joined forces with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) to launch the Climate Solutions Caucus, the first-ever bipartisan Senate caucus dedicated to the issue. It now has 14 members. When forming their caucus, Braun and Coons had said climate change had become "too polarized, toxic and unproductive."
It's unclear if the new GOP-only group in the House will fuel or fight further gridlock, but Braun says he supports more members of his party getting involved in the issue.
“I support Republicans getting engaged in the climate discussion to oppose radical job-killers like the Green New Deal and instead craft realistic, common-sense, pro-jobs solutions," Braun told IndyStar in a statement.
'In the closet on climate'
President Biden has made tackling climate change a key part of his administration. He's signed several executive orders on the topic and included it in various plans and budget proposals, adding that it goes hand-in-hand with creating jobs.
“I think there have been a lot of Republicans in the closet on climate,” Braun told the Washington Post last year, also noting the importance of engaging young voters with meaningful climate legislation.
The senator also previously expressed admiration for climate activist Greta Thunberg, during a time when the former president antagonized the teen and while the Trump administration was actively trying to diminish efforts to fight climate change.
On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Braun and other senators. The bill provides incentives to farmers and foresters to implement sustainable practices that are believed to help capture carbon.
Now, the bill heads to the House floor for vote.
Groups such as the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the American Conservation Coalition have expressed support for the Conservative Climate Caucus.
The executive director for nonprofit Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions has also supported the group, saying U.S. climate policy "must foster innovation and commercialization pathways that work for Indiana as well as for India."
As of Thursday afternoon, the group has grown to more than 60 GOP members.
IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: New GOP caucus acknowledges climate change, still wants fossil fuels