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Rep. Carlos Curbelo: Republican Half of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

Wow! It's finally here! A bipartisan effort from two Florida congressmen who have put together the new Climate Solutions Caucus.
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Wow! It's finally here! A bipartisan effort from two Florida congressmen who have put together the new Climate Solutions Caucus. I have written previously about the Safe Climate Caucus, but on that roster, there was nary a Republican to be found.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla) and Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-Fla) have joined forces to bring attention to essential environmental issues that have become political hot potatoes.

A look at Curbelo's willingness to speak plainly and to support President Obama's efforts to promote a robust environmental agenda shows that he does not ascribe to the run-of-the-mill Republican talking points. After Obama's State of the Union address, Curbelo's formal response included the statement, "The need to mitigate the effects of climate change, a matter of vast concern to the families of our state and coastal communities across the country, is another urgent problem that I will continue to find common ground with the President and Congress. I appreciate the President's emphasis on this issue."

That's encouraging.

Yes, Curbelo supported the Keystone Pipeline. However, when his House colleagues overwhelmingly supported S.J. Resolution 23 (which negated the EPA's regulations on carbon emissions), Curbelo voted in opposition. He noted, "Power plants are the largest man-made source of carbon emissions, accounting for 31 percent of U.S. total output. The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This is a positive first-step as we transition to alternative forms of cleaner energy."

It's clear that Curbelo isn't afraid to buck the crowd. At 34 years old, he is one of the youngest members of Congress. Curbelo is beginning the second year of his initial term. A first generation American, his parents emigrated from Cuba in the 1960s to escape Fidel Castro's regime.

I reached out to the Congressman with a list of questions, to learn more about his viewpoints.

How did you and Rep. Ted Deutch come to the idea of creating a Climate Solutions Caucus that was specifically bipartisan?

Rep. Deutch and I wanted to establish a working group of Representatives from both sides of the aisle that could discuss the merits and caveats of potential policy solutions to address climate change. Rep. Deutch's willingness to look past party labels to find a solution has been invaluable in the creation of the Climate Solutions Caucus.

25 percent of Florida's residents live in the southern part of the state, which is particularly at risk due to its topography. Hurricanes and flooding are real threats. Your district is directly affected by these situations. Is this one of your immediate priorities?

Climate change touches so many critical issues in my district, it absolutely has to be an immediate priority of mine in Congress. Insurance rates, property values, clean water supplies, and general public welfare are all at risk should we decide to simply ignore the imminent warning signs.

Do you see any joint efforts with the Safe Climate Caucus, which presently has no Republicans?

The way I see it, the Safe Climate Caucus has the same objective as the Climate Solutions Caucus, which is to acknowledge the risks posed by a changing climate and discover feasible solutions to mitigate those risks. I believe collaboration with their caucus would be incredibly useful to meet that common goal.

You and Rep. Deutch have talked about wanting to educate members of the Caucus about climate disruption, and then move this knowledge into tangible legislation. Could you elaborate?

The first goal of the caucus is to serve as a forum for like-minded Members from both sides of the aisle to come together and discuss strategies to help address climate change. We can then present these proposals to our other colleagues as a united caucus.

What are your top goals for 2016 in terms of making change in the environmental landscape?

Locally, I have been actively seeking increased funding for Everglades Restoration projects, which are absolutely essential to South Florida's ecosystem as well its economy. In response to King Tides and rising sea-levels, I have proposed legislation that ensures access to affordable flood insurance. I intend to continue being part of the discussion on how we can best go about reforming the National Flood Insurance Program, especially as it relates to climate change. Nationally, I will continue to build on the progress that has been made the dozen or so GOP Members who are serious about working on common-sense climate change solutions, such as promoting renewable energy sources and environmental conservation.

Curbelo closed his responses with the following statement:

If we want to be serious about a comprehensive, clean, and reliable national energy policy, we need to be promoting new technologies and innovative solutions. Our nation's future, depends on it. As a husband and a father, I want to ensure that future generations of families can enjoy the beauty our world has to offer. I am confident that if we work together, we can do right by future generations and leave them a cleaner and safer planet.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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