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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Trees, plastics and favorable tax policy are at the core of House Republicans’ new push on climate change — an effort to reassure voters they care about the problem after a decade of dismissing it.

Why it matters: The policies reveal how Republicans hope to counter Democrats’ Green New Deal and show the political saliency of this topic that in the past has been on the electoral back burner.

Driving the news: The proposals, some of which are new and being disclosed here for the first time, are being coordinated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the top Republican in the House.

  • McCarthy — along with GOP Reps. Garret Graves of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas — sat down with Axios for an exclusive interview after hosting a caucus-wide event on the topic Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Where it stands: There’s not going to be an overall target to reduce emissions, which is likely to stoke skepticism from critics. But the plan will likely include other kinds of specific targets related to these three areas:

  1. Capturing carbon dioxide emissions, with a focus on trees.
  2. Clean-energy innovation and funding.
  3. Conservation, focusing on plastic.

The big picture: More on those in a moment, but … the prioritization of climate-change policies by a top Republican in Washington is a sea change for a party whose leader — President Trump — dismisses the issue and whose members have either ignored or denied it for years.

Yes, but: A sea change in actual policy is unlikely. Republicans are doubling down on a small-government agenda. They’re eschewing carbon pricing, and they're criticizing the far more aggressive and sweeping policies pushed by some Democrats as ineffective and harmful to America’s economy.

“If you look at this conference today, we just had a whole event talking about the environment, not because someone is driving us but because we care about it,” said McCarthy.

The details: Republicans want to beef up efforts to capture CO2 with technology, agriculture and trees — lots of them.

  • Westerman is working on legislation, called the Trillion Trees Act, which would, among other things, create a national target for increasing the number of trees grown in the U.S. “for the purpose of sequestering carbon,” according to a summary of the bill viewed by Axios. It doesn’t (yet) include a numerical national target, but it’s not actually a trillion.
  • "Go back to something old for something new and trees are the ultimate carbon sequestration,” Westerman said.
  • The lawmakers want to make permanent and expand an existing tax credit available to companies sequestering CO2, with a new component emphasizing the importance of capturing carbon from the sky long after it was emitted.

The clean-energy category includes a new goal of doubling federal investment in basic research and fundamental science and a new proposal to provide lower tax rates for U.S. companies exporting clean energy technology.

  • It also includes familiar — and controversial — areas of support from Republicans, such as natural gas and nuclear power.

The conservation category focuses on cleaning up plastic pollution and encouraging the Energy Department’s national labs to research better recycling technologies.

  • Specifically, lawmakers want to redirect foreign aid to help countries that have rivers most polluted with plastic.

Between the lines: At the heart of each of these ideas is a broad goal of making clean-energy technologies cheap so other countries, namely developing economies like India, can adopt them without needing a price on CO2 emissions. “If you’re increasing the cost of energy, these solutions aren’t exportable,” Graves said.

But, but, but: These efforts will inevitably face swift and familiar opposition from most Democrats and environmentalists. They're skeptical that Republicans are genuinely concerned about climate change and that these policies would actually cut heat-trapping emissions as drastically as scientists say is needed.

  • Setting an overall emissions target is a common way to judge the seriousness of climate commitments, but Graves and McCarthy dismissed the need for emissions targets, saying they can achieve results without them.
  • “It’s a mistake to set arbitrary targets like some folks are doing,” Graves said.
  • Even people more sympathetic to these ideas — including energy experts and current and former Republican congressional staffers who are familiar with the proposals —were underwhelmed at what appeared to many as a singular focus on trees, for example, and indicate more should be done.

What we’re hearing: The Bipartisan Policy Center, a centrist D.C.-based think tank, has been working with Republicans on some of these ideas.

“I think once you become engaged with the solution, then math starts to matter,” said Jason Grumet, the group’s president. “Sure, you can start with aggressive gardening, but that’s not a complete solution and serious people then recognize that more has to happen.”

Go deeper

Study: Social media giants failing to remove most antisemitic posts

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking virtually during a March House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees hearing on a laptop computer in Tiskilwa, Illinois. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five social media giants failed to remove 84% of antisemitic posts in May and June — and Facebook performed the worst despite announcing new rules to tackle the problem, a new report finds.

Driving the news: The Center for Countering Digital Hatred (CCDH) notes in its study that it reported 714 posts containing "anti-Jewish hatred" to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and TikTok — which were collectively viewed 7.3 million times. These "clearly violated" company policies, according to the CCDH.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard: "It gets better"

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics. Ina Fried/Axios

Laurel Hubbard, speaking to reporters after becoming the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics, on Tuesday expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete as an athlete and convince transgender people to work through adversity.

What she's saying: "All I have ever really wanted as an athlete is just to be regarded as an athlete," Hubbard, said in response to a question from Axios. "I suppose the thing I have been so grateful here in Tokyo is just being given those opportunities to just go through life as any other athlete."

Amazon may have violated law in Alabama warehouse vote, NLRB says

The Amazon BHM1 fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, should hold a new election to determine whether to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the National Labor Relations Board said in a preliminary finding Monday.

Details: The e-commerce giant may have illegally interfered in a mail-in election tallied in April on whether workers at the plant should unionize, per a statement from an NLRB hearing officer assigned to the case. Amazon said it would appeal any ruling stipulating that a second vote should take place.