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Why these 2 Utah GOP congressmen are embracing worldwide climate change issues

Ann Romney, left, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Rep. John
Curtis, R-Utah, and Sue Curtis, right, chat after they each claimed
victory in their primary elections in Orem on June 26, 2018.

Ann Romney, left, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and Sue Curtis, right, chat after they each claimed victory in their primary elections in Orem on June 26, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Ahead of next month's massive climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, two GOP members of Utah's congressional delegation are dialing up the heat with what they say needs to happen in the space of tamping emissions.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was recently interviewed by the Milken Institute about the need for a border adjusted tax — particularly aimed at imported goods from China. In the interview, he beat up on the Democrats for not being aggressive enough.

"There is only one change that dramatically affects the amount of global emissions and that is a price on carbon. That is basically it," he said.

"They (Democrats) talk about like this is the holy grail. And they know it is the only thing that really makes a difference. But they are not planning on doing it in reconciliation and I do not understand why."

In the interview, Romney said he had heard from a chief executive officer of a U.S. steel company that China-produced steel has four times the emissions as domestic steel.

"One way to get China's mind concentrated is if there were a price on carbon and a border adjustment tax so if China is importing products which have a very high quotient of emissions, that will come with a very high price," he told the institute.

In a subsequent interview with reporters, Romney said he is not a fan of the reconciliation measure, but said it at least ought to include a tax on carbon.

"There may be some features in there that I'm not aware of that are fine but by and large I think it's not an ideal product by any means," he said. "But for them to not include a fee on carbon is hard to explain other than as a political calculation which suggests that all the discussion about climate change is political, and not real."

Logan Mitchell, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah, said he is encouraged by Romney's push for a border adjustment tax and his exertion of political pressure.

"It doesn't make sense for U.S. industry to compete at a disadvantage with China because they aren't paying for the pollution they're emitting. The World Trade Organization has said that a country can only implement a border adjustment if they have an internal carbon price and that is why the European Union is implementing a border adjustment and many countries are thinking about following their lead," Mitchell said. "The United States needs to take this opportunity to get serious about addressing global emissions."

Romney's embrace of a border adjusted carbon tax comes ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November, when many in the global community will revisit the voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Paris climate accord.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus, will be attending the Glasgow conference, along with a handful of other GOP congressmen in a trip sponsored by a nonprofit organization called the Conservative Climate Foundation.


I think it is very important to see that Republicans do care deeply about the earth and the environment and we have a plan.

–Rep. John Curtis


Curtis, even as Provo's mayor, was an early Republican leader in Utah to draw attention to climate reduction strategies and has repeatedly stressed that the issue of pollution has to be bipartisan.

The caucus has grown to more than 70 members, including Utah Reps. Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart, in a focused push to insert the GOP into the discussion.

"I think it is very important to see that Republicans do care deeply about the earth and the environment and we have a plan," Curtis said.

Curtis will spend about a week in Glasgow.

"I want to meet everybody, talk to everybody and hear everything I can."

But like Romney, Curtis said there needs to be more accountability from other polluting nations like China and Russia.

"This is a perfect platform to work with Russia and China. They have to be part of the solution," Curtis said.

He said it is important for the GOP to show there are areas of support for the Biden agenda, but at the same time China and Russia need to be held to account.

"I am very pleased. The United States should shout from the rooftops that we are in compliance and more in compliance than any other country. We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than the next 12 greenhouse gas reducing countries combined," Curtis said.

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While Curtis said the United States needs to do more, he stressed: "We need other countries to step up."

It is unclear to what extent leading players on the emissions' stage will participate.

The Council on Foreign Relations recently reported the uncertainty.

"Meanwhile, the leaders of some of the highest-emitting countries will be absent, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although they are expected to send negotiators. Chinese President Xi Jinping has not yet said whether he will attend in person; China's climate envoy and other officials are planning to be there," it reported Oct. 22.

That tension comes even as China said it will pursue the development of more coal-fired power plants after enduring rolling blackouts and has a 20-year window before it has to start reducing emissions.

"There is something about where it is made and when we can't see or scrutinize it," Curtis said. "A good example is closing the Keystone pipeline and asking OPEC to produce more oil under conditions that are far more polluting and less green than here in the United States and Canada."

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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