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LA Congressman Garret Graves Calls for Alignment Between Environmental and Economic Sustainability in HPCA Virtual Forum

  • Doug Gavel
| Mar. 11, 2022

Robert Stavins and Rep. Garret Graves

While stating that climate change is a “huge problem” in need of innovative solutions, Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves (R-6th district) made the case for bridging political divides by aligning environmental sustainability with economic sustainability during a Virtual Forum ( view recording here) on Thursday (March 10). The event was hosted by the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (HPCA) and moderated by Robert Stavins, HPCA Director and A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy and Economic Development. 

Graves, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, represents a district that has been and will be seriously affected by climate change. The region has lost more than 2,000 square miles of coastline to subsidence and rising sea levels, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. “This is a huge personal issue for us…South Louisiana is a state that doesn’t have a large margin of error in regard to sea rise.” he said.

Yet Graves also acknowledged that the political divides in Washington make it very difficult to agree on climate policies, noting that politics has become “a blood sport, with party first, and the country after that.” And he remarked that things don’t seem to be getting any better at the moment.

“I don’t see a trend in the right direction,” he said. “I think people are taking things that people used to be able to rally around, like kittens and dogs and apple pies, and found ways to make them partisan.” 

Climate change is certainly one of those issues, Graves stated, because the discussion has become more emotional than science- and data-driven. But he also noted that if politicians begin speaking about the issue with an eye toward the economic benefits of creating a more diverse energy portfolio, the issue will begin to gain traction among people in both political parties. 

“If you bring up climate change and global warming, you’re going to have pretty different views among Democrats and Republicans. However, we have found that if you begin slicing it up into different components [you can achieve some consensus],” he said. “I can be in a room with some liberal folks and talk about the protection of communities and the resilience of ecosystems; it resonates, absolutely. And I can be in rooms with conservative folks talking about how we’ve funded these [climate-related] disasters over and over…and there are all sorts of studies…that have clearly shown how making investments in the front end in resilience or hazard mitigation more than pays for itself in the longer term.”

While Graves expressed his ambivalence toward instituting a national carbon pricing system, he spoke passionately in favor of investing in technological solutions that balance environmental with economic sustainability, including investments in wind, solar, and geo-thermal. The challenge, he said, is in understanding where the best returns-on-investments will be.

“We’ve got to do a better job now helping decision makers know where and how to most effectively use the tools available to where you get affordable energy, where you get resilience performance, and where you get lower emissions over the long run.”

Graves also argued that small innovative businesses could play a significantly important role in helping mitigate the climate crisis in the coming years. 

“That is exactly where the problem is going to be solved,” he remarked. “We are going to innovate our way out of this…[because] innovators have the opportunity to come in and disrupt.” 

This webinar series, HPCA Conversations on Climate Change and Energy Policy, features leading authorities on climate change policy, whether from academia, the private sector, NGOs, or government. Look for an announcement about the next Virtual Forum. You will be able to register in advance for the event on the HPCA website

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Gavel, Doug. “LA Congressman Garret Graves Calls for Alignment Between Environmental and Economic Sustainability in HPCA Virtual Forum.” News, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, March 11, 2022.

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