Bigger and faster emissions reductions are possible if environmentalists and industry work together.
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There is a real danger that the climate debate is deteriorating into a game of name-calling, with oil and gas companies all too often portrayed as opponents of climate progress. But polarizing the debate in this fashion will not get us any closer to solving the problem. We can achieve far greater and faster emissions reductions if environmentalists and energy companies work together.
Most oil and gas companies recognize the threat of climate change and want to be part of the solution. As a sign of their seriousness, five of the largest — BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total — have joined a broad coalition, convened by the Climate Leadership Council, which I run, in backing a concrete plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by half by 2035. These oil and gas companies are not only lending their names to this environmentally ambitious solution; they are putting their money and lobbying muscle behind it.
This marks a turning point for American climate policy and the politics surrounding the issue, because the energy majors are an indispensable part of any successful clean-energy transition. It is important to understand why the industry’s technological, economic and political support is so essential in achieving climate progress.
For starters, oil and gas companies have the scale, research and development budgets, expertise and infrastructures needed to expand low-carbon energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and hydro, and to pioneer new technological breakthroughs. Their research and development budgets are many times larger than those of companies focusing only on renewables, and their venture capital divisions help finance many of the nation’s clean tech start-ups.
The council’s bipartisan carbon dividends plan calls for a national carbon fee starting at $40 per ton and increasing at 5 percent per year above inflation. This would establish the highest carbon price of any major emitting country. If enacted by Congress and signed by the president in 2021, it would enable the United States to exceed its 2025 commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement by a wide margin.
The plan’s environmental ambition is matched by equally strong pro-consumer, pro-business and pro-competitiveness provisions. Specifically, its other pillars include returning all the revenue directly to the American people (a family of four would receive about $2,000 a year), adjustments for carbon-intensive imports and exports to level the economic playing field, and regulatory simplification. By the latter, we mean that in the majority of cases where a carbon fee offers a more cost-effective solution, the fee would replace regulations. For example, all current and future federal stationary source carbon regulations would be displaced or pre-empted.
The corporate financial backers of an advocacy campaign to promote this plan range from oil, gas and nuclear interests to solar, wind and geothermal businesses to prominent auto and tech companies. If such a diverse group can agree on a breakthrough solution, political leaders on both sides of the aisle should be able to as well.
Movements for positive change often fail not just because of the resistance of entrenched interests but also because of divisions within the movement itself. It is time to overcome unnecessary divisions and work together in promoting an ambitious and politically viable climate solution. SOURCE