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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

New details are emerging about a low-profile carbon tax campaign whose backers are confident will prevail in a climate debate defined by heated Democratic rhetoric and a lack of apparent interest by most Republicans.

Driving the news: U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would be cut in half by 2035 under a $40-a-ton carbon tax that increases 5% above inflation annually, according to a new goal in the plan. The proposal is being pushed by a coalition of strange bedfellows that includes corporations, environmental groups, former Republican politicians and economists.

Where it stands: The group, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), is pushing a carbon tax whose proceeds will be refunded back to consumers. CLC was launched in early 2017 by former Republican leaders, including two former secretaries of states, James Baker and George Shultz.

  • Since then, the effort has gained impressive support from big oil companies and environmental groups, but it hasn’t found much Republican support in Congress.
  • Although Republicans are increasingly acknowledging climate change is a problem, few are on board with sweeping new policy, which this would be.

What’s new: The group has added two new corporate members — mining giant BHP Billiton and electricity provider Calpine — and plans to release a detailed legislative proposal.

  • The goal of halving U.S. CO2 emissions by 2035 is new, as is the 5% annual increase to the proposed carbon tax. This is far more ambitious than President Obama’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, but less aggressive than what most Democrats are calling for now.
  • The plan specifies that it would displace or preempt all federal regulations for stationary sources of CO2. This includes things like power plants, but excludes cars and trucks. It looks like an attempt at compromise in what is sure to be a dicey debate.
  • The plan also removes any mention of shielding companies from lawsuits alleging responsibility for damages connected to historical emissions. Removing the liability line could be significant because many see it as a must-have for big oil companies facing such lawsuits, though a similar proposal can always be added in the actual legislative process.

What’s next: Expect more news from the group in about a month, including more members, new financial commitments to its lobbying arm and a six-figure advertising campaign in DC, according to CEO Ted Halstead.

  • Halstead says the plan will be introduced in a bipartisan manner, ideally in both chambers of Congress, by year’s end.

Editor's note: This piece corrected the spelling of George Shultz.

Go deeper

Anti-Trump lawmakers' private security expenses ballooned after Jan. 6 riot

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on April 14. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Image

Members of Congress are spending tens of thousands of dollars on personal security for them and their families in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, according to an analysis of first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports by Punchbowl News.

Between the lines: Private security expenditures were especially common among anti-Trump Republicans and high-profile Democrats who earlier this year voted to impeach and convict the former president for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, signaling they fear for the safety of themselves and their families.

1 hour ago - World

Jimmy Lai among Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison

Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.