Carly Fiorina: Fix climate change with innovation, not regulation

Likely 2016 GOP candidate Carly Fiorina says regulation to curb climate change won't be as effective as innovation, especially if the developing world is reluctant to scale back carbon pollution from high-emission sources like coal.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP and likely 2016 presidential candidate, speaks to a group of reporters at a Monitor-hosted breakfast in Washington on Thursday.

The US should tackle climate change through innovation instead of regulation, says likely GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

An international deal to slash planet-warming emissions would not be effective, Ms. Fiorina said at a Monitor-hosted breakfast Thursday, and those concerned about global warming should focus instead on technological advances that could reduce climate-altering greenhouse emissions.

“The only answer to this is innovation, and in that America could be the best in the world,” Fiorina said, adding that a global deal to cut emissions won’t work “because we will not have a harmonized regulatory regime.”

Fiorina’s comments come as diplomats from around the world work to forge a global deal to cap emissions, culminating in talks in Paris this December. President Obama has committed the US to cut emissions 28 percent over the next decade, in hopes that a strong US commitment will encourage other nations – like major polluters China and India – to pledge equally robust emissions cuts. Each nation’s pledged cuts will be the ingredients for a global deal.

But Obama has less than two years left in office, meaning his pledge will be largely carried out by a successor – whether a sympathetic Democrat like Hillary Clinton, who announced her candidacy Sunday, or a Republican like Fiorina, who – if elected – may decide it’s not worth cutting US emissions if China and India’s carbon emissions are only going to grow.

“A single state or nation acting alone will make no difference at all,” Fiorina told reporters Thursday.

Fiorina, a former CEO of HP and the GOP’s 2010 candidate for US Senate in California, said Thursday that she is likely to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Should she enter the race, Fiorina would join a group of Republican candidates lacking a cohesive message on climate change – ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who denies climate change, to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s considering a run and once worked on climate legislation with Senate Democrats.

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Fiorina didn’t dispute the science showing carbon emissions are warming the planet in her appearance Thursday, but suggested that regulations weren’t the appropriate way to tackle the problem.

“We’re disabling our own economy and not having any impact at all on climate change,” Fiorina told MSNBC in an interview in early April. “Let’s innovate our way out of this.”

Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are already telling states not to comply with Obama’s Clean Power Plan – which would cut US power plant emissions 30 percent by 2030 – because the industry and Republicans are challenging the plan in court.

Fiorina’s tack is somewhat different, shifting the conversation away from regulations and instead putting stock in innovations that could cut US and world emissions – even without a regulatory deal like the one world leaders are working toward through a United Nations framework.

The cost of solar and wind power has plummeted in recent years, and carbon-free nuclear energy is expanding in China and other parts of the developing world. Advances in green technology give hope that – with or without a deal to reduce fossil fuel emissions – the world is headed for a lower carbon future.

Still, Democrats, environmental groups, and many climate experts say a strong global deal is needed to ensure the world’s runaway emissions don’t continue. Without regulatory pressure from world governments, they say, energy systems worldwide will not transition quickly enough to keep warming within a widely agreed-upon safe range. That puts pressure on presidential hopefuls to take a clear position on efforts to decarbonize energy, regardless of what that position might be.

“With the implementation of the Clean Power Plan and critical climate negotiations in Paris on the horizon, climate action will be a major theme in the 2016 election,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, said in a statement Sunday.

Ms. Clinton, the current Democratic frontrunner, has urged regulation to slash emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, vowing to defend Obama’s power plant emissions cuts “at all costs.”  The former secretary of State has called global warming “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.”

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