Here is an edited version of an interview the Alliance for Market Solutions (AMS) conducted with Carlos Curbelo, a former congressman and now a member of AMS’ advisory board.
- What influenced your commitment to addressing climate change and your interest in climate policy?
In early 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists visited my congressional office. They reviewed data and maps with me that made clear the threat sea level rise and climate change posed to my community and my state. I had not gone to Congress thinking that I would prioritize environmental issues, but I quickly realized I did not have a choice.
- Prior to serving in Congress, what helped to shape your perspective on or approach to climate advocacy?
I had always been very supportive of Everglades restoration in Florida. I had a healthy environmental conscience, but I had not dedicated much time and thought to it except for some casual conversations with a work colleague. The meeting with the NOAA team was a major catalyst for me.
- What is the role of government in addressing climate change? The private sector?
Every person, every company, and every government in every country has a role in addressing climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint session of the U.S. Congress there is no Planet B. We have to get this right.
We have to protect our home. We have to honor God’s creation. People must act responsibly in their daily lives. Companies must invest in clean-energy infrastructure, and governments must collaborate to pass policies that accelerate decarbonization while protecting workers and affording opportunities to entrepreneurs.
4. Today the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from developing countries. How can our national climate policies drive global policies?
We cannot just trust other governments to act responsibly on climate. The truth is we must compel them to. For a long time, developing nations have talked a good game on emissions reduction, but they have failed to act meaningfully. This is understandable.
Other nations want to grow and remain competitive. Unfortunately, time for taking strong action to decarbonize is short, and the time to act is now unless we are comfortable condemning future generations to a future of conflict, chaos, and reduced prosperity.
Accords and commitments can help, but only enforceable trade and tax policies can guarantee results. That is why a border adjustment tax is such an attractive policy instrument, one I worked to enact when I was in Congress and that I continue to advocate for.
5. What is your advice for current corporate leaders as they consider addressing climate change?
Get on the good list. History is watching; so are millions of young Americans who want to thrive and prosper. Young voters prioritize climate and clean energy because they know their future depends on it.
Good corporate citizens will stand with rising generations and engage constructively to promote policy solutions that secure a healthy planet and prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.
- You not only served in Congress, but you continue to talk to members of Congress to discuss climate change. What is your impression of how politicians are thinking about the issue? Their vision on climate policy?
Most Republicans and Democrats know it is time to get serious about this issue. They also know time is running out. So much time has been wasted on petty politics and reckless denialism.
It is time for our policymakers to sit around the table and reach an agreement. Republicans have grown tremendously on this issue over the past few years, and many will be prepared to engage when the policymaking window for climate opens soon.
- What do you think the climate will be like in 2100?
A little hotter, but mostly healthy because we acted. Most importantly, for me, Miami will continue existing as a beautiful city and a welcoming home to people from all over the world.
Carlos Curbelo represented Florida’s 26th congressional district from 2015 to 2019, during which he co-founded and co-chaired the Climate Solutions Caucus and introduced the first Republican legislation to address climate change in a decade — the landmark MARKET CHOICE Act. He now sits on the Alliance for Market Solutions Board of Advisors and on the Energy Foundation Board of Directors.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.