Conservatives are stepping up to address climate change – CCL has their backs

By Lois McLauchlan, Parker/Castle Rock chapter leader

CCL along with co-hosts Republic EN and Deploy/US held a two-day in-person conference March 29th and 30th in Washington D.C. “The Right Response to a Warming Planet.” Catchy name, right? Yet bipartisan engagement in climate solutions is essential. Bringing together the best of various perspectives, based on a fundamental agreement on the issue, is necessary for the formation of the enduring policy we want and need.

This was the first in-person national event held by CCL since the beginning of the pandemic. It came at a time of low covid prevalence and plenty of vaccine and testing availability. It was both delightful and powerful to be able to connect with others this way again!

Over 80 politically right-of-center CCL members attended. Several were from Colorado including Grant Couch, the founder of the Conservative Caucus in CCL. Noticing the low numbers of Republicans at the 2013 National conference, and understanding the importance of having a real presence of conservative voices in CCL, he was ‘volunteered’ by then Executive Director Mark Reynolds to do something about it! Grant continues to provide guidance and wisdom in the organization and to mentor especially the younger conservatives who join CCL in support of enduring, effective bipartisan climate solutions.

The reason I attended the meeting was to become familiar with the motivations, challenges, and opportunities in the creation and support of significant climate-related legislation among conservatives in Congress. We heard from Representative John Curtis (Utah District 3) who founded the House Conservative Climate Caucus in early 2021. He credited CCL members in his state with initially encouraging his leadership on climate. After a somewhat clandestine beginning, there are now over 70 members in the Caucus. That’s over one-third of the total number of Republicans in the House!

Four additional members of that Caucus came to speak to our group. This was a different kind of experience in a CCL national conference! Each expressed where they stood on climate action and why. Values of stewardship, economic growth opportunities, maintaining competitiveness in the global market, and the value of national energy security stand out. Generally expressed was agreement with the scientific evidence for global warming and the contribution from human activity, the importance of a bipartisan approach, and the need for conservatives to come to the table and contribute ideas. Some were supportive of taxing carbon as an externality. One liked the trillion trees policy, another did not. The importance of educating consumers on the unnecessary use of energy was mentioned. Most took an “all of the above'' approach to energy sourcing, supporting a diverse mix depending on what works best in a given region. Reform of the permitting process for all types of new energy projects was seen as an issue to address soon. Looking to nuclear energy for base power was mentioned. We were reminded of the history of farmers, ranchers, and hunters being the early conservationists. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) made a video for us in which she discussed the Energy Act of 2020, her current bipartisan work on climate adaptation and hydrogen, and her experience that these things take time.

We were treated to a summary of the up and down history of Republican conservative involvement in climate over the last 15 years by former congressman, current climate activist, and self-proclaimed recovering politician Mr. Bob Inglis. He formed RepublicEN about 10 years ago, arguably the first “EcoRight” national organization. He told us that politicians follow, not lead. And that the “disastrous decade of climate disputation” has ended. He is on CCL’s advisory board and continues to work very closely with CCL, joining with organizers in strategic states to speak with conservative groups of just about any size.

Business panelists endorsed the need for bipartisan support for the type of legislation that will stabilize the market. They explained that would allow for predictability, decreased risk, and so encourage the investment needed. They also advocated for reform of the permitting process including but not limited to NEPA which was established in 1970 under President Nixon. They spoke to the benefits of domestic supply chains.

EcoRight panelists discussed the good reasons for a carbon price, that effective solutions don’t have to increase the size of government, and their preference for data driven, market-based policy. We were encouraged to look at low-cost preventive measures that would decrease greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience, and increase job security. To understand what your Congressional Representative cares about, and where that intersects with good climate policy. To understand that US-sourced fossil fuels are relatively less polluting than most others, both in composition and in collateral emissions and environmental damage, and that we can and should do better even as we move to decarbonize. To understand that creation care is an acknowledged responsibility. That there is a “duty of care” due to groups like children and the elderly who are disproportionately harmed by the consequences of global warming.

In the young adult conservative climate leaders panel, some of the comments included the statement that politics, not capitalism, is the bottleneck in solving climate change. The contrasts between market-based policy and the Green New Deal, and the need to acknowledge that fossil fuel money contributed to the problems we have today were touched on. One stated that even if the representative does not trust climate science, a market-based policy of a carbon price with a border carbon adjustment can be discussed as a “no regrets” policy, much like taking out insurance: it boosts jobs, improves health, promotes a cleaner environment, and if the scientists prove to be right, it would also solve the climate crisis. They encouraged our continued support and advocacy.

In our breakout groups, the “under 40” folks had a conversation about best practices in lobbying. The “over 40” group received advice on community outreach ideas. In small group workshops we all discussed both our thoughts about policy directions and the actions we could take in the near future.

My take-aways were that there is a vibrant and growing engagement in climate action among Republicans now in Congress, that they are supported by dynamic and growing business and religious communities and by a growing number of conservative constituents and organizations; that conservation endures as a core value, and that these engaged Republicans understand that addressing the issue of global warming is best served through bipartisanship. A recently published CCL blog post gives additional details and perspective.

Take Action:  When you come across conservative-minded CCL supporters, please point them toward CCL’s Conservative Caucus Action team for additional support for their climate activism engagement.