A group of prominent Republicans and business leaders pitched a tax on carbon dioxide to top White House aides Wednesday, selling the plan as an economic win that could drive job growth and yield environmental dividends too.
Former Secretary of State James Baker and other members of the new “Climate Leadership Council” pressed the case in a 45-minute meeting in the Roosevelt Room that included President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior aide Kellyanne Conway.
“The signs were very encouraging,” Ted Halstead, who founded the council, said after the meeting. “Two weeks into this new administration, we have positioned our solution as the most promising climate solution — if they want to go there.”
Baker also met briefly with Vice President Mike Pence, as the old-guard Republicans try to persuade the Trump administration that a carbon tax imposed in exchange for abolishing a slew of environmental regulations is an insurance policy against the risks of climate change.
“We know we have an uphill slog to get Republicans interested in this,” Baker said before the White House meeting. But “a conservative, free-market approach is a very Republican way of approaching the problem.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the idea.
The Republican and business leaders lent their stature to an approach for addressing climate change that mirrors an idea already advanced by Exxon Mobil Corp. Supporters say the tax is a conservative solution to climate change that replaces a regulatory regime with a free-market approach for addressing the greenhouse gas emissions.
The group includes Hank Paulson, who served as Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush and previously has advocated a carbon tax through his eponymous think tank, the Paulson Institute. Besides Baker, who served as secretary of state and Treasury secretary under two Republican administrations, other members include former Secretary of State George Shultz, Sequoia Capital Operations LLC partner Thomas Stephenson and former chairman of the board of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Rob Walton. Economic advisers to former presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan also are involved in the effort.
Baker himself conceded he remains “somewhat of a skeptic about the extent to which man is responsible for climate change,” but the “risks are too great to ignore.”