Jon HuntsmanPhoto: World Economic ForumJon Huntsman   [UPDATED]
Former Utah governor and ambassador to China

Huntsman appears to take climate change seriously, making him perhaps the greenest GOP presidential contender — at least so far. [Well, see the update below …]

On climate science: Unlike his rivals, Huntsman has consistently spoken out about the threat of climate change and has not been inclined to waffle over whether it is primarily human-caused. In an October 2008 gubernatorial debate in Utah, Huntsman said, “carbon emission … is a problem because it leads to polluted skies and air-quality problems and climate change.” And in May 2011, he told Time that he is inclined to believe the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.

On climate policy: At that 2008 debate, Huntsman said, “we must put a value on carbon. Until we put a value on carbon, we’re never going to be able to get serious about dealing with climate change longer term. Now, putting a value on carbon either suggests that you go to a carbon tax or you get a cap-and-trade system underway.” He also argued that climate and clean-energy policy would boost Utah’s economy: “a very important engine of growth for us over the years will be the new innovations and technologies and capital equipment surrounding a new energy economy, a green energy economy — things like carbon capture and sequestration.”

In 2007, Huntsman appeared in an Environmental Defense Action Fund ad calling for Congress to cap greenhouse gases. In the absence of federal action, he pushed forward in his own state. He brought Utah into the Western Climate Initiative in 2007, and the next year, he set a goal for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2020. In January 2009, he said he found it “enormously frustrating” that Republicans had not been working toward a national climate policy. As ambassador to China, Huntsman tried to promote joint American-Chinese climate solutions.

UPDATE, 5/12/11: In an interview with Time, Huntsman backtracked from his support for cap-and-trade, saying the Western Climate Initiative “hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago.” For now, “this isn’t the moment” to keep trying, he said. As the WCI’s cap-and-trade program hasn’t actually gone into effect yet, it’s hard to know how he determined that it “hasn’t worked.”

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