Centrists Embrace 'Green real Deal' Climate Plan From Trump Ally Matt Gaetz

April 4, 2019
In The News

Centrists welcomed a "Green Real Deal" climate change resolution introduced Wednesday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., intended to be a contrast to the progressive-backed Green New Deal.

Gaetz's plan would combat climate change through policies to promote innovation, rather than direct spending and regulations.

While liberals criticized Gaetz's proposal as insufficiently ambitious, centrists praised the climate advocacy from Gaetz, a 36-year-old second-term congressman and relentless cable television presence known for his defenses of President Trump.

"If Republicans are willing to start with innovation, and actually fight to significantly increase federal investments, there’s no good reason not to take them up on that," said Ryan Fitzpatrick, deputy director of the Clean Energy Program at Third Way, a center-left think tank.

Gaetz insisted his plan shares common elements with the Green New Deal, despite mocking its name, and was reluctant to criticize Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the freshman co-sponsor of the progressive climate plan.

“We want to get to the same place: Democratized access to clean energy," Gaetz said during a press conference Wednesday outside the Capitol building. "She [Ocasio-Cortez] wants to get there through a regulatory model. I want to get there through an innovative model. We ought to be talking a lot more and having a lot more votes on all of it.”

Gaetz’s plan would expand the use of renewables by weakening or removing regulations that he says hinder the development of wind and solar power generation on public lands. It would streamline approvals for emerging zero-carbon technologies such as small advanced nuclear reactors, and for building transmission lines to deliver wind and solar energy.

It encourages tax incentives for carbon capture and storage technology that could collect emissions from coal and natural gas plants and industrial facilities. It would also modernize the electricity grid to accommodate the use of more wind and solar power, and spend on research and development into clean energy technologies.

“The Green Real Deal is a love letter to the American innovator, and it is a real serious plan to address climate change,” Gaetz said.

He said that climate change was a national security threat, and warned that “history will judge [the GOP] harshly on climate" if his colleagues don't act.

His plan does not, however, contain a specific emissions reduction target. Gaetz also said he rejects carbon pricing, a more comprehensive carbon reduction solution promoted by some Republicans, such as Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida.

Rooney, co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, is the only co-sponsor of Gaetz’s Green Real Deal, despite their differences on carbon pricing.

“Rep. Gaetz has been with us on all of the environmental issues,” Rooney told the Washington Examiner.

Citizens' Climate Lobby, an environmental group, also praised Gaetz's resolution, even while calling for more Republicans to support carbon pricing.

"We find it encouraging that Republicans are increasingly calling for the need for bipartisan action on the climate crisis," said Mark Reynolds, executive director of Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Still, Gaetz’s go-it-alone style might ruffle Republican leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon and John Shimkus of Illinois, who have been promoting similar legislation.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee, under Republican control, was very active in promoting policies and legislation to reduce carbon emissions, boost clean energy options, and modernize our power generation,” a committee aide told the Washington Examiner. “We expect that work to continue in the committee with jurisdiction over climate legislation."

Gaetz is an unlikely leader for climate advocacy.

He has sponsored a bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, and represents a conservative district in Florida’s western Panhandle, one that is suffering sea level rise.

He’s also been eager to portray himself as a young leader pushing his party to do more on environmental issues, joining the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

“Gaetz engaging the issue is significant and while perhaps counterintuitive at first glance, perfectly natural given that he’s a bright millennial legislator,” said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who co-founded the Climate Solutions Caucus. "He can be an extremely positive and decisive influence in the House GOP conference on this issue.”

Other Republicans pushing for climate change action hope Gaetz could be persuasive with Trump, who challenges the mainstream science of climate change and does not view the issue as a priority.

“Just as important as policy is the powerful signal that Republicans, including big-time Trump allies like Rep. Gaetz, are stepping into the ring to compete on climate with principles of free enterprise,” said Alex Bozmoski of the conservative group republicEn.