Young conservatives won't back down from the climate conversation under Biden

Young conservatives won't back down from the climate conversation under Biden
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While election results remain contested by the Trump administration, one thing is clear: young people voted for Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE in record-breaking numbers. Poll after poll told us young people care about climate change, and Republicans failed to offer a clear plan, opting not to update their 2016 platform. 

This decision undoubtedly hurt President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE with the youth vote, as 62 percent of young voters cast their ballots for Joe Biden versus Trump’s 35 percent. At the end of the day, Trump’s inability to convince young voters that he’d prioritize issues close to their hearts may very well have cost him the election. This issue transcends party lines for young Americans, in fact, before the election, 68 percent of Republican voters aged 18 to 54 said that climate change was important to their vote. It took the majority of the 2020 campaign, and an entire presidential term, for Trump to admit that climate change is a result of human activity. When he finally did make this concession, it was qualified with “to an extent.”

For young voters who want action now, Trump’s rhetoric just didn’t cut it, which is why they turned out in droves to vote for Biden. However, despite predictions of a nationwide “Blue Wave,” the GOP performed exceptionally well down the ballot, adding more than a dozen women to its congressional ranks. Interestingly enough, Republicans who did embrace climate change as a serious issue fared well across the board. After all, Republican challenger candidates like Peter Meijer (Mich.), Maria Salazar (Fla.) and Nancy Mace (S.C.) centered their campaigns around environmental issues and won their races handily. There is a lesson to be learned from this contrast. 


Meanwhile, the Biden campaign walked a careful line between the progressive wing of his party and the moderate votes he would need to reach 270. Biden wavered on issues like fracking and transitioning completely from fossil fuels. He refused to fully support the Green New Deal, but included GND champions Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the climate change task force that helped inform his own climate plan. With Biden soon assuming the presidency, it’s time for clarity. Will we see heavy-handed executive orders, mandates that Congress would never consider and economy-stifling regulation, or will we work to bring both sides to the table and rebuild a green economy?

While young people on both sides of the aisle prioritize climate action, the Green New Deal is a nonstarter for young conservatives and moderates. We do, however, want our leaders to do more than oppose progressive climate plans. With the likes of Meijer, Salazar and Mace in Congress, a market-based, innovation-driven climate strategy is on the table. It’s now our time to lead the party into a new era of conservative conservation and climate action.

This is a promising trend within the Republican Party, and to make good on his campaign promise of unity, a Biden administration should pursue a bipartisan approach alongside these new leaders. 

In all likelihood, Biden will become the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Biden may have won an overwhelming percentage of the youth vote, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. Our focus must be, first and foremost, reducing emissions and helping frontline communities adapt to the effects they’re already experiencing. If Biden is as serious as he claims to be about climate action, he’ll listen to up-and-coming conservatives and hear us out on actionable steps to combat the environmental challenges we face.

As the next generation of conservatives, we can and will do better. Climate change is a serious threat and human activity is resulting in higher global temperatures. The right way forward on climate must work for all Americans. Climate solutions in 2021 and beyond require that conservatives be at the table.

Danielle Butcher is the executive vice president at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Follow the organization on Twitter @ACC_National.