Bipartisan carbon bill would help climate fight, protect US from unfair tariffs

When it comes to solving climate change, there is an opportunity for America to lead the way—and in a manner that doesn’t leave us standing alone in the world while others continue to pollute.

The good news is Congress is taking bipartisan steps to get there. 

Last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency Act (aka: PROVE IT Act)  by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 14-5. Four Republicans broke from party lines to vote in favor of the Act, which Republican co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) has billed an ‘American first’ environmental policy.

“If the goal is to reduce global emissions, the answer is to produce more in America. Our bipartisan PROVE IT Act acknowledges American excellence while protecting workers and businesses from unfair tariffs and foreign competitors seeking to undercut them.” Cramer said.

The PROVE IT Act, championed by Cramer and his Democratic colleague, Sen. Chris Coons from Delaware, would task the Energy Department to determine the amount of carbon emissions of certain products such as aluminum, cement, crude oil, fertilizer, iron, and plastic made in the United States as compared to those produced by other key trading partners. This information is critical because it will shed light on which industries in which countries are the worst carbon offenders, especially considering the U.S. is highly carbon efficient compared to most of the world.

Armed with this information, Congress could move toward implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) that would place tariffs on carbon-intensive imports. A CBAM would penalize products coming from heavy polluting countries, which currently compete against cleaner products made in the U.S., thus leveling the playing field by ensuring that countries with stringent environmental standards (like us) are not disadvantaged in international trade.

For example, when heavy polluters like China and Russia flood the market with products created with high carbon emissions, they undercut American goods produced with fewer emissions and adhering to more stringent environmental standards. If passed, the PROVE IT Act would lay the foundation for a future CBAM, which would give credit to American workers and manufacturers for “efficient, low-carbon manufacturing processes while encouraging countries who trade with the United States to adopt a common set of emission reporting standards for traded industrial goods.” 

The PROVE IT Act’s focus on transparency and accountability sets a precedent for responsible global commerce. By encouraging other nations to adhere to a common set of emission reporting standards, the United States is positioning itself as a leader in carbon efficient manufacturing and a subsequent CBAM would fairly reward domestic industries with carbon efficient manufacturing processes.

And it’s great to see bipartisan momentum for taking this trade-related approach to global carbon emissions.

Congress should jump over the artificial hurdle of it being a presidential election year to assert America’s leadership in the global fight against climate change and pass the PROVE IT Act. By transcending partisan divisions, lawmakers can stop carbon leakage, elevate American manufacturing, and compel other nations to clean up their acts. It’s time to put America first in a way that benefits both the environment and the economy. The PROVE IT Act stands ready to be the catalyst for change; now, it’s in the hands of Congress to make it a reality.

Mary Anna Mancuso is a political strategist and a spokesperson for RepublicEn.org, a group of conservatives who care about climate change.

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