For a cleaner, more prosperous world, ACC mobilizes conservatives around environmental issues, fostering collaboration in the pursuit of environmental conservation.
Growing up in a small rural town in Pennsylvania, climate change certainly wasn’t an issue that came up often, other than in a science class once or twice a school year. While I grew up appreciating the outdoors, I never expected to become a climate change activist, especially since I found myself closer to the right on the political spectrum.
However, it’s becoming more and more apparent that conservatives must reclaim a place at the table when it comes to environmental issues such as climate change. The conversation has been one-sided for too long, which has led to extreme, unrealistic “solutions.” Climate change must be addressed in a meaningful way, but that isn’t to say that conservatives have to sacrifice their principles to do so.
Here at the American Conservation Coalition, we have changed the narrative on environmental issues. Throughout my year and a half with the organization, I have found that like me, many young conservatives care deeply about our natural environment and want solutions to address the effects of climate change.
While our group certainly isn’t mainstream, the values we share seem to be a generational concern. Due to our organization’s unorthodox approach, we get a lot of questions: how can you be conservative and work on environmental issues? How can you believe in climate change and not want to ban fossil fuels? How can you advocate for oil and gas as well as wind and solar? How are you different from other environmental groups? I’ll address these questions more directly, but I think E&E answered the final one best when they said we bring “a more clean-cut look and an insider tone” compared to other climate groups.
Said another way, what really makes us unique is our approach. We believe in bridging the divide on climate issues and bringing people together instead of pushing them out. Simply, we believe in coalitions. It’s right there in our name. While some may focus on how stakeholders disagree, we aim to hone in on how we agree and how to move forward from there– together.
At our core, we believe in free markets. We believe that industries innovate, and businesses are not the problem, but part of the solution. Corporations have not always been perfect, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t meaningfully contribute now to reducing emissions. In order to truly mitigate the effects of climate change, emission-reduction must be our focus, and this can be best accomplished through clean technology innovation, powered by American ingenuity. The government can’t do that alone.
To return to the previously mentioned questions, conservation is conservative. Being good stewards of our planet should seamlessly fit into a conservative ideology. Reducing emissions is incredibly important, but a ban on fossil fuels right now would leave countless people in the United States without electricity, not to mention jobs and livelihoods. Instead, we should focus on ways to make fossil fuels relatively cleaner while also making renewable energy sources more marketable and affordable.
That’s why ACC introduced the American Climate Contract, a market-based framework for climate action now. The Contract has four pillars: energy innovation, 21st century infrastructure, natural solutions, and global engagement. Our plan is vastly different from preexisting vague targets and unrealistic policy proposals. It demonstrates that conservative environmentalism is something new, different, and effective.
So, when someone asks you “how you can be a conservative environmentalist,” the answer is simple. Free markets work. Innovation works. The principles of the American Climate Contract work.
This is the first installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract.