Bill Weld: 2020 Climate Forum

Summary

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was the last candidate of the forum and the only Republican to attend. As a lifelong environmentalist, he explained why it was natural that climate change would be the top issue for his campaign. Republicans, Weld said, have always been the party of environmentalism, from Roosevelt to Nixon; he stressed that he is not an anomaly.

The centerpiece of Weld’s climate proposal is Carbon Pricing. His plan is similar to those put forth by other candidates but added that “it’s revenue neutral to the government.” None of the money would go to the government. Therefore, he claimed, it is not a “tax,” but rather a “price.” With this plan, Weld hopes hypothesizes that the market will establish a stable price for carbon that more permanently discourages its use. 

Another key element of Weld’s climate approach is a transition away from the dying coal industry, stressing that Trump’s continued focus on coal is backwards both economically and environmentally. He wants to retrain the coal industry’s displaced workers and prepare them for a new industry, ideally in a green field. Doing so would be more realistic, in contrast to the jobs guarantee in the Green New Deal, Weld explained. “This country is a little bit right of center, and [the Green New Deal] is never gonna fly,” Weld told Ali Velshi.

The conversation regularly returned to the increasingly partisan way that climate change is treated. Weld argued that the origin for this “ridiculous” party polarization on the issue was Trump, and the fact that “hoax” is his “one word platform for climate change.” Climate change should not be a partisan issue, Weld reiterated. When asked by a student at the University of Southern California what members of Congress he thought he would be able to work with on the issue of climate change, Weld enthusiastically responded, “All!” By treating each member with respect, rather than “holding them hostage,” like Trump is now, he explained that we would be able to escape gridlock, and move forward with a concrete, scientifically-supported climate plan. 

GREEN Analysis, Hunter Congdon

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was the only Republican featured at the forum. A self-labeled lifetime environmentalist, he seemed committed to being more than an environmentalist-in-name-only. He was frank in acknowledging the reality of the science of climate change, and the dangers of inaction. He supported a plan to put a price on carbon, to allow the free markets to reduce emissions. He also indicated a willingness to direct relief at lower income people to help adjust, and supported investment in technological innovation. While his support for a carbon tax scheme and other environmental initiatives is welcome and refreshing, we had questions as to whether Mr. Weld’s plan would achieve the necessary emissions reductions fast enough, and in regard to his support for natural gas as a “transitional fuel”.