Jan 17, 2020

Microsoft, House GOP reflect split-screen America on climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft is pushing aggressive goals to tackle climate change while simultaneously supporting House Republicans' more modest efforts on the matter.

Driving the news: On Thursday, Microsoft announced its new pledge to become carbon negative in 10 years, while earlier in the week its president, Brad Smith, expressed support for House Republicans’ far narrower efforts on climate.

Why it matters: These two developments reflect a common split-screen dynamic playing out across America. Many corporate leaders are promising aggressive action on climate change within their own firms while taking far more conciliatory tones when it comes to what, if anything, they want lawmakers on Capitol Hill to do.

The intrigue: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hosted a meeting Thursday during which more than a hundred Republican members discussed policies the party could present as a way to address climate change.

  • This focus, which marks a shift away from denying or ignoring the problem over the last decade, comes as voters — especially younger ones — are more concerned about the matter.
  • Policies Republicans are discussing include expediting small modular nuclear power and expanding tax credits for carbon capture technology — but no comprehensive proposals, such as a price on carbon dioxide emissions.
  • McCarthy said he shared some of the ideas with Smith in a phone call earlier this week.
  • A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the call and the overall sentiment of it.

What they're saying: “[Microsoft] said, ‘We want to help you with that. We want to be a part of that,’" McCarthy told Axios Thursday in an interview. “The basis was, they said, ‘We like your approach because you’re basing it on science, technology and it’s really looking at the problem and solving it.’"

Between the lines: Microsoft has been vocal about its support for aggressive action on climate change. This includes recently doubling its internal price on CO2 and joining a group that supports a carbon price in Congress.

  • However, it is not funding a related campaign, American for Carbon Dividends, which is directly lobbying Congress on the policy.
  • McCarthy reiterated his long-standing opposition to a carbon tax in the interview Thursday.

What’s next: House Republicans are looking to unveil a package of related legislation in the spring.

Go deeper: Microsoft vows to become "carbon negative" by 2030

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New lobbying urging Congress to support a price on carbon emissions is not convincing lawmakers to warm up to the policy.

Why it matters: A carbon price is widely considered one of the most economically efficient ways to tackle climate change. But, economics be damned, its politics remain deeply unpopular.

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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.

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