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Guest opinion: A step toward meaningful Republican action on climate change

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks at the Human Trafficking Policy and Education Summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks to journalists at the Human Trafficking Policy and Education Summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Climate change is no longer a single party issue in Washington. This week, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, led more than 50 of his Republican colleagues, including the rest of Utah’s congressional delegation — Reps. Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart — in the newly formed Conservative Climate Caucus.

The Conservative Climate Caucus is another step toward meaningful Republican action on climate change. While environmental conversations are politically fraught, conservatives have a deep-rooted legacy of environmental stewardship.

Teddy Roosevelt is the father of our national parks, Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, and George H.W. Bush signed critical amendments to the Clean Air Act. Even recently, the Great American Outdoors Act and Energy Act of 2020 were championed by environmentally conscious Republicans. This caucus is further proof that Republicans are returning to their conservation roots.

As young conservatives, we’re grateful for not only the formation of this caucus but also the actions of its members up to this point. Congressional Republicans have reclaimed environmental issues, including climate change, as an issue they are ready to tackle. By championing clean energy solutions including nuclear power, emissions-reducing technologies, natural climate solutions and conservation efforts, Republicans have had an integral role in pushing the needle forward on environmental progress.

Importantly, conservative principles, particularly localized action and free market competition, are the tools that will be most effective in solving our environmental challenges.

It’s a false choice to say economic and environmental progress are mutually-exclusive, and conservatives are leading the way on economically sound solutions. It’s imperative that we have their voices in the climate change conversation.

As a self-described millennial with a lifelong passion for the great outdoors, Curtis has been one of the leading voices calling for his party to engage in the climate change dialogue with initiatives such as the #CurtisClimateChat series. Since joining Congress in 2017, he has made a point to create a more respectful and productive dialogue around climate change and has met with environmental groups, including our own, the American Conservation Coalition, on numerous occasions.

As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, Curtis will not only help educate his colleagues on the issue, he will play a leading role on crafting energy policies that will create a healthier environment and stronger economy.

A freshman in Congress, Moore already has shown leadership on environmental issues through the introduction of the Forest TECH Improvement Act. As another freshman, Owens is an emerging voice on environmental issues in Utah, and Stewart joined the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, founded by Curtis this year to address the threat that wildfires pose to our state.

Our state’s tradition of environmental stewardship and strong conservative values make Utah Republicans uniquely positioned to lead the GOP’s engagement on environmental issues. Our economy thrives because of the amazing landscape, including Salt Lake City’s iconic mountains.

This conservative yet environmentally concerned demographic makes it unsurprising that our representatives aim to merge capitalist ideals with responsible stewardship of the environment.

Utah is a perfect example of why we don’t have to choose between a thriving economy and a healthy environment. After all, the environment is what attracts so many to our state and drives our booming economy.

This new caucus proves once again that while Republicans do not embrace progressive environmental solutions, they care deeply about the future of our planet. As conservatives, we know that we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on this issue, and the Conservative Climate Caucus now proudly demonstrates that to the larger public. It’s no longer a binary choice between alarmism and denial. There’s a path forward for pragmatic, common-sense solutions to the challenges we all face.

Brooklyn Brown and Liam Thrailkill are the president and a member, respectively, of the Salt Lake City Branch of the American Conservation Coalition.