Congress

Gaetz is trying to sell AOC on a ‘Green Real Deal’ but progressives aren’t buying it

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions helped draft the proposal

Rep. Matt Gaetz, F-Fla., conducts a news conference at the House Triangle to unveil climate change legislation the Green Real Deal, on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the Green Real Deal on Wednesday, a competing resolution to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, a sign the ambitious plan to combat climate change championed by the Democratic star has convinced some in the Republican Caucus of the need for a conservative counterproposal.

“History will judge harshly my colleagues who deny the science of climate change, and similarly those Democrats who would use climate change as an excuse to regulate the American experience out of existence,” the Florida Republican said at a news conference outside the Capitol.

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a 501(c)4 advocacy group that champions renewable energy technologies, helped draft the resolution and cheered Gaetz for introducing it.

“A Green Real Deal is another example of Republicans taking the lead in pursuing legislative solutions that champion capitalism over socialistic cronyism,” CRES Executive Director Heather Reams said in a statement.

The Republican plan’s emphasis on renewable energy aligns the Green Real Deal with Ocasio-Cortez's resolution, and Gaetz said he has already lobbied the New York congresswoman on the plan.

But Gaetz’s resolution does not match the Green New Deal’s topline aim: to curb greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s warning that without change, deadly weather and large-scale damage to infrastructure will result.

Watch: Matt Gaetz unveils ‘Green Real Deal’

Gaetz’s resolution emphasizes strengthening the protection of U.S. patent rights, which the Florida Republican argues would boost American solar and hydropower companies.

“Our rise in global leadership on climate, must be fueled by American innovators and I have a plan to support them,” he said. 

That could present a barrier to foreign countries seeking to produce renewable energy more cheaply, according to the Green New Deal.

The Ocasio-Cortez plan proposes “promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal.”

Gaetz argues that phasing out fossil fuels through regulation will only export pollution creation to other countries, and argues such curbs would simply be “virtue signaling.”

His resolution proposes a voluntary framework for reporting and tracking carbon emissions.

“If we do not reduce global carbon emissions, if we merely export pollution, in service of our own virtue signaling, then we will not have done anything real to protect our beautiful planet,” Gaetz said. He argued linear goals for reductions in carbon emissions are not necessary.

The Green New Deal also proposes stopping “the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas.”

Ocasio-Cortez has criticized her colleague’s plan as unambitious, Newsweek reported.

“Where’s the courage? Where’s the audacity? Where’s the daring? None of it is there. Where’s the beef?” she said.

Progressives take issue with the framing that the Republican proposal is more “real” or pragmatic, and say any plan that fails to phase out fossil fuels does not seriously grapple with the threat of climate catastrophe.

“Rep. Gaetz's resolution is distracting from the climate emergency at hand and fails to put forth a plan to decarbonize the economy,” said Mark Paul, an economist with the Roosevelt Institute who supports the Green New Deal. “We cannot afford inaction or half measures.”

The resolution includes a number of solutions that would benefit the renewable energy industry, including unlocking federal lands for the expansion of renewable energy production and research development tests.

CREP is an advocacy organization that champions the interests of “clean and advanced energy technologies,” not a trade group. But a spokesperson did not specify for whom it advocates, or reply to questions about who funds the nonprofit organization.

Gaetz represents a coastal district in Northwest Florida and opened his remarks Wednesday with the quip that he represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District “while it is above water.”

But Gaetz has not always championed action on climate change, having sponsored a bill in the last Congress to abolish the EPA.

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