During an Iowa debate, Republican presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis addressed the issue of climate change by highlighting China’s emissions and expressing a commitment to reverse the Biden administration’s environmental policies. The discussion was prompted by moderator Jake Tapper, who highlighted the record-breaking warmth of 2023 and questioned DeSantis about his plans to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
In response, DeSantis launched an attack on U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, criticizing him for traveling on a private jet. DeSantis also pledged to eliminate the renewable energy subsidies introduced by the Biden administration and emphasized China’s role as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Kerry has previously testified that his wife used to own a private jet, which has since been sold. He has also stressed that addressing climate change necessitates China’s cooperation in reducing its carbon output.
DeSantis further outlined his approach to addressing the underlying causes of climate change, stating that his focus would be on innovation and the development of natural gas. Notably, Florida rejected over $300 million in federal funds aimed at reducing tailpipe emissions, making it the only state to do so.
Haley, on the other hand, highlighted her contribution to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement, which the Biden administration has since rejoined. She also pledged to reverse subsidies for renewable energy. Both candidates criticized the Biden administration’s plan to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles, with Haley specifically citing the lack of charging infrastructure and the strain on roads from heavier electric vehicles. Additionally, Haley advocated for the elimination of federal gas taxes, which are currently used to fund highway maintenance.
It is worth noting that both Haley and DeSantis acknowledged the threat of climate change more explicitly than they had during the previous GOP debate, where they did not raise their hands in acknowledgment of human contributions to the phenomenon. This stands in contrast to former President Trump, the front-runner of the Republican Party, who has repeatedly dismissed climate change as a “hoax” and initiated the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement. However, Trump was not present at the debate as he was participating in a Fox town hall event on the same evening.