Americans concerned about climate change may not recall five years from today what occurred in the U.S. Congress, but it is significant and worth mentioning now. This week, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle introduced competing bills that aim to put a tax on carbon. The legislation comes as Republicans and Democrats feel pressure from their constituents to do something to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change.

The idea to tax carbon isn’t new.

It’s been around for so long, in fact, that the actions this week in Congress surprised carbon tax advocates. Their idea is fairly simple. A tax would be levied against companies to encourage them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Americans would receive a share of the carbon tax revenues to help offset higher costs of goods and services as companies work to reduce their emissions.

Eventually, corporations will clean up their act, and the carbon tax will go away.

In the past, the Hub has suggested that conservative Republicans get on the carbon tax bandwagon because the idea emphasizes a market-based, corporate approach to helping the environment. Backing a carbon tax has the potential to heal our planet and it also would mend the GOP’s image as environmentally insensitive.

This week, there finally is a carbon tax proposal introduced by a Republican lawmaker — Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida. Democrat Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware and Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois also introduced carbon tax bills.

Hopefully, Rooney’s proposal will garner some interest and, perhaps, win support from Rooney’s fellow House Republicans.

For too long, Republicans have fueled the perception that they are not the party of the environment. If enough Republicans get behind Rooney’s carbon tax proposal, Republicans would recreate their image as environmentally sensitive while also floating a market-based solution to climate change.

Backing the carbon tax makes political sense. It puts Republicans on the offense, rather than having to defend their party against claims the GOP cares more about corporations than it does the climate. The GOP should not pass on this opportunity to promote a safe and healthy environment. The carbon tax — a conservative solution to climate change — leans on technological innovation and — to a large degree — on switching to abundant and clean natural gas. The red party could become the green party.