Former congressman Carlos Curbelo weighs in on climate progress
By Sara Wanous
Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an online meeting featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change, carbon fee and dividend, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Check out recaps of past speakers here.
“You can always count on me!” is how former Florida Representative Carlos Curbelo signed off of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s national call this month. While in office, Curbelo worked closely with CCL as the Republican co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus. Today, between “enjoying the private life a bit” and serving as a fellow at Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy, Curbelo still took some time to share his perspective on climate policy with CCL volunteers during our May 2019 monthly meeting. Unsurprisingly, his remarks echoed many of CCL’s values, like optimism and bipartisanship. Watch the meeting below, or continue reading for a recap:
Curbelo has an optimistic outlook on the future of climate policy, bolstered by his experience developing the Climate Solutions Caucus and his relationships in Congress. Curbelo said that when he arrived in Congress in 2015, few Republican representatives would speak about climate change. Today the debate is no longer about whether climate change is real, but rather what are the best solutions to address it. Curbelo said, “We have seen a dramatic shift in the debate over the last few weeks, and of course a big part of that is attributable to our joint work on this issue over the course of the last few years.”
The shift in the conversation has been a result of the hard work of many voices and organizations, including the Climate Solutions Caucus in Congress. Under the leadership of Florida representatives Carlos Curbelo and Ted Deutch, 45 House Republicans and 45 House Democrats in the 115th Congress agreed that climate change is real and that Congress has a responsibility to act. Curbelo attributes a large part of the success of the caucus to CCL’s work, saying, “[The Climate Solutions Caucus] would not have been possible without CCL and all of the volunteers all over the United States and also throughout the world.”
Curbelo strongly believes, “If we’re going to get a meaningful climate solution, it must be bipartisan, especially if it’s going to be a durable solution.” And the good news is that we are on the right track. From his experience in office and relationships with members, Curbelo knows that there are many Republicans who understand the importance of finding effective climate solutions. CCL’s continued work bringing both Republicans and Democrats forward and together on climate solutions is as important as ever to our collective progress.
CCL regularly communicates with Republican offices through our in-district outreach and annual June and November lobby days in Washington, D.C. Regarding carbon pricing, Curbelo said, “Republicans have to understand that this a conservative solution, and it happens to be the most effective and efficient solution as well, to recognize an externality in the economy, something that is causing damage yet is unaccounted for, something that can replace arbitrary regulation and give businesses and American families more certainty and more opportunities in the future.” It is important for us to continue communicating the merits of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act with Republican offices.
Curbelo also talked about the importance of positive reinforcement to move Republicans forward on climate change. He shared that from his experience, congressional offices can get overwhelmed with negative messages. When members of Congress receive positive feedback for making a strong statement or taking a bold action, it encourages them to continue acting on climate solutions. “Where Republicans are encouraged, where they receive positive reinforcement when they make a strong statement or when they take bold action, that’s necessary. And I can tell you, that doesn’t always happen,” he said.
Curbelo added that it’s important that offices are hearing this from their constituents all across the political spectrum. “This is not about philosophies on government or about any other issue. It’s about making sure that future generations can continue living on this earth and enjoying this earth in the same manner we have. It’s about delivering a healthy planet.”
Former Representative Carlos Curbelo and Citizens’ Climate Lobby share an infectious optimism and a focused commitment to bipartisan climate solutions. That was clear when Curbelo said, “We are closer than we’ve ever been to the type of solution that our country and the world needs to address carbon pollution.” Together, we will continue working toward these solutions.
Sara Wanous has been the Membership Coordinator at Citizens’ Climate Lobby since January 2018. She has a B.A. in Economics and B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Chapman University and is pursuing a masters in Climate Science and Policy at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.