World News

U.S. carbon price group boosts lobbying in Congress, releases plan

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group aiming to spur climate change legislation that would tax carbon emissions stepped up efforts by issuing a blueprint on Thursday after previewing it with a group of bipartisan U.S. senators earlier this week.

The Climate Leadership Council’s plan aims to halve carbon emissions by 2035 from 2005 levels with a tax starting at $40 per ton. While that would make products like gasoline more expensive, the plan would return dividends to families of about $2,000 in the first year.

The council’s chairman and chief executive, Ted Halstead, said the group hopes that climate legislation based on the blueprint will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate this year. “The objective is to tee it up as a bipartisan alternative going into the (November) 2020 elections,” Halstead said.

The CLC hosted a dinner with nine of the 12 members of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus this week, a person familiar with the meeting said.

Senior officials from 15 companies including Exxon Mobil Corp, Ford Motor Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co attended Tuesday’s dinner, according to a document seen by Reuters. Some of the officials also met with House lawmakers.

As voters demand action on climate change, lawmakers in Congress have begun to put forward legislation but are struggling to agree on how to tackle the problem.

Republican lawmakers in the House proposed legislation on Wednesday that included setting a goal to plant 1 trillion trees to address climate change by sucking carbon out of the air, an idea that President Donald Trump has supported. [nL1N2AC12K]

Several House lawmakers including Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said carbon taxes are not needed to spur innovation.

But Halstead predicted Republicans would soon show support. “Our plan ticks every box of conservative orthodoxy,” he said, adding that it is market-based, pro-business and cuts regulation.

The founders of the Senate climate group, Senators Chris Coons, a Democrat, and Mike Braun, a Republican, said they were happy it has received outreach from industry and advocates, but did not say whether they supported the plan. Coons introduced a carbon tax bill last year.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska who attended the dinner, said, “I appreciate the broad coalition this group is putting together to help us address the impacts of climate change.” Alaska is one of the biggest oil-producing states.

The CLC said Goldman Sachs & Co, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres have joined the group as founding members.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)