RNC — Republicans should pledge to protect the environment

RNC — Republicans should pledge to protect the environment
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As November approaches, Republican candidates up and down the ballot have a decision to make: show strong leadership on the environment, or return to the unsustainable rhetoric that has caused them to lose voters. At this week’s Republican National Convention, party leaders have an opportunity to make the right choice. 

The environment won’t be the top issue this election, but it will be a winning one. As Americans grapple with the challenges of life during the coronavirus pandemic, many have escaped to the outdoors for peace and relaxation. Whether visiting a National Park or the park around the corner, Americans across the country have been reminded of the importance of caring for our public lands, ensuring clean air and clean water and protecting our natural environment. 

This renewed appreciation for nature builds on a decade-long trend. Since 2011, the number of American adults who say protecting the environment should be a top priority for the president and Congress has risen from 41 percent to 64 percent.

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While Republicans still struggle to change the narrative that the environment is an issue of the left, they’ve shown notable leadership in the last year.

Earlier this month, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bipartisan bill, led by Sens. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate committee advances bipartisan energy infrastructure bill  Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google Senators propose bill to help private sector defend against hackers MORE (R-Mont.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms MORE (R-Colo.), directs billions of dollars to address the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog and permanently funds the hugely popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Great American Outdoors Act is the most significant piece of conservation legislation in a generation. It would not have passed without GOP leadership.

Directed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines Has Trump beaten the system? MORE (R-Calif.) and other key voices, Republicans in Congress have wisely charted a new course on the most politically important environmental issue: climate change. While President Trump’s climate denial has grown quieter, he has stopped short of acknowledging the real threat posed by climate change.

In February, Leader McCarthy released a climate package that included legislation to increase clean energy innovation, expand carbon capture and plant more trees. Senate Republicans have also embraced climate action, leading bills to help farmers sequester more carbon and develop cutting edge battery storage for renewable energy.

In large part due to the activism of hundreds of thousands of young people across the United States, climate change will play a more important role this November than it did in 2016. While young progressive activists often get more attention, 79 percent of young Republican voters want their party to champion smart climate policy. Altogether, two-thirds of Americans believe the government is doing too little to address climate change. In 2020, climate change denial is a stunning act of political and scientific nihilism.

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Republicans should highlight their legislative achievements on conservation and climate change on the campaign trail. Even more importantly, they should clearly communicate to voters that environmental conservation and conservatism are not at odds, but actually one in the same. 

Recognizing environmental protection for the important issue it is and proposing effective policy solutions would be a return to tradition, not an embrace of the left. The greatest environmental achievements of the 20th century came from GOP presidents. Teddy Roosevelt founded the National Park Service. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol. George HW Bush strengthened the Clean Air Act.

This week, President Trump will make his case for reelection to the American people. Democrats have already staked their claim on the environment, unveiling a vision of environmentalism characterized by sweeping, top-down edicts and expansive bureaucratic control. Absent a Republican vision for economically-responsible climate action and environmental protection, millions of Americans won’t feel represented by either party come November. 

It’s time for Republicans to decide whether they will return to their conservation roots and build a more sustainable future for the party and our country. 

Quill Robinson is the vice president of Government Affairs at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Follow him on Twitter @QuillRobinson.