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Newly appointed Republican environment committee chairman outlines climate goals

EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told Fox News Digital in his first interview since assuming a top policy role in the House that tackling climate change is a top priority.

EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told Fox News Digital in his first interview since being appointed to chair a key environment subcommittee that he would use the position to combat climate change, an issue that has divided Republicans for years.

Carter — who House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., appointed to lead the panel's Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee — said climate change is a serious issue, pointing to rising sea levels in his coastal Georgia district. However, he argued that fossil fuels will be needed in the coming decades and the U.S. must onshore green energy supply chains.

"I think it's very important for conservatives to have a place at the table, a seat at the table," Carter told Fox News Digital. "For instance, I went to COP28, and I'm glad I went. I won't kid you, there was a little bit of tribulation there at first because there are people in our party who are climate deniers — they don't believe in climate change."

"Now, I don't believe that if we don't have this resolved by the day after tomorrow, we're all going to fry. But I do believe in climate change. vI believe that it's real. And I believe that it is impacted by man. And I believe it is cyclical and that we are going through one of those cycles," he continued. "If we are just going to stick our head in the sand, we're going to miss the boat, we're not going to have an opportunity to be involved at all."

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In December, Carter, who also serves as a vice chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, traveled to COP28, the annual climate summit hosted by the United Nations. While U.S. representation at U.N. climate conferences has historically been dominated by Democrats and federal officials like President Biden's climate czar John Kerry, Carter said the event presented an important opportunity for conservatives to join the conversation.

For example, the Georgia Republican said COP28 created progress on advancing a pathway for future nuclear energy permitting, adding that Democrats acknowledged during the summit that they are beginning to favor an expansion of nuclear. During the summit, the Biden administration signed a pledge alongside more than 20 other nations to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050.

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Among Carter's priorities leading the Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee will be to advance nuclear, a zero-carbon and dispatchable power source that faces a burdensome regulatory regime in America. Reforming nuclear regulations has long been a heated topic on Capitol Hill, but it has recently been pursued in bipartisan legislation.

In addition, Carter said another top priority of the subcommittee under his leadership will be clawing back green energy supply chains from China.

"We need to beat China. Let's face it, China is the OPEC of critical minerals. My district is one of the few districts in America that is mining critical minerals right now, and we need to do more of that," he told Fox News Digital. "This attitude of ‘not in my backyard,’ we've got to get past that. We've got to have reliable supply chains."

"The Biden administration's approach to this is dismal at best," Carter continued. "It has not been good at all. They have really just turned a blind eye to the fact that we are too dependent on China and our adversaries for essential, critical minerals that we're going to have to have."

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He said major green energy projects in the U.S., such as the $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle plant in his home state of Georgia, are reliant on pro-growth policies such as those in Georgia. He also noted a wide range of environmental regulations potentially blocking the U.S. from competing on producing and processing critical minerals required for green energy.

"We're not doing the processing here in America, they're doing it over in China. And they don't have regulations in China, they don't have an EPA in China. They just do whatever they have to do to get [it] done," he continued. "Of course, we're more responsible than that and so are our allies. So, that's why we've got to take a balanced approach to this. But if we don't do processing here in America, then we're not going to be successful."

In addition, Carter said fossil fuels shouldn't be demonized, adding that they will be vital to ensuring the U.S. can adopt green energy sources like solar and wind. 

And he noted that U.S. carbon emissions have significantly declined in the past several years, thanks in large part to technological progress made by the fossil fuel industry.

"I believe in an all-of-the-above type energy strategy," Carter told Fox News Digital. "Listen, I wish we could go to total solar and total wind and be done with it. But we can't, and it's naive of anyone to think that we can. But if we take an all-of-the-above type energy strategy, then I think we can achieve what everyone wants to achieve."

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