Over the last few years, the Republican Party has made significant progress in restoring its proud tradition of environmental leadership. Having served as the 2021-2022 Indiana College Republicans chairman, I see this trend is critical to bolster the party’s popularity and electoral competitiveness and must continue to accelerate.
Notably, the party’s emerging environmental revival has been sparked by members of Congress from here in Indiana. Within a year of being elected to Congress, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun corralled a core of his Republican colleagues to form the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. The group regularly meets with leading businesses and entrepreneurs to hammer out commonsense, market-based climate and energy solutions.
Sen. Braun’s initiative has helped inspire a conversation more broadly across the GOP — with leadership now calling for a serious U.S. response. In fact last June, the House GOP launched a new Conservative Climate Caucus with 70 Republican members, which includes our own Indiana Congressmen Jim Baird and Larry Bucshon.
Staking out a leadership position on climate has allowed Republican leaders to advance better, more economically sound solutions. Congressman Greg Pence’s hydrogen innovation bill, Sen. Todd Young’s farming conservation legislation, and Braun’s Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed the Senate with flying colors (92-8), are all clear examples.
Braun’s bill — co-sponsored by Sen. Young, Congressmen Baird and Trey Hollingsworth — is positioned to be the first stand-alone piece of climate legislation passed in over a decade. By easing access to carbon markets, it would enable American farmers to be rewarded for their climate-smart practices.
Republican-led solutions like these are proving to be popular legislatively, and they’re also vital to keeping the GOP popular electorally. A strong climate posture is necessary to win over my generation which, regardless of political belief,prioritizes climate action much more than older generations. To be a party of the future, the GOP needs policies to protect the future and that appeal to the voters of the future.
While the GOP environmental stance has strengthened — and this development should be applauded and highlighted — more needs to be done to earn the youth vote. A winning GOP stance would showcase how Republican solutions are superior to the Democrats’ big-government approach.
On this front, opportunity abounds. While the Leftcalls for the U.S. to turn a blind eye to its differences with China in the name of “climate collaboration” and Democrats plunge time and energy into hollow,unenforceable joint statements, the GOP should draw a clear contrast.
Republicans should chart a course that holds countries like China and Russia accountable for their pollution, drives emissions reductions by boosting U.S. innovation and puts America first. Luckily, new research indicates that manufacturing and trade policy may be our biggest opportunity to do so.
According to a first-of-its-kind report from the conservative-led Climate Leadership Council, U.S. manufactured goods are 40% more carbon-efficient than the world average — and three times more efficient than China’s. In fact, nearly every U.S. sector enjoys this “carbon advantage” over our biggest trade competitors.
Despite this, the rules of the road offer U.S. manufacturing no benefit for their clean production. No matter how clean we become through innovation, under current trade policy, foreign polluters get a free pass for their pollution.
In light of these findings, local businesses — including steel industry leaders — are calling for updates to trade and climate policy to unlock the U.S.’s carbon advantage, level the playing field and force foreign nations to play by America’s rules. While Democrats burden industry with their regulatory agenda, Republicans can boost US manufacturing by seizing on America’s carbon advantage and transforming it into a competitive advantage.
As we ride toward the 2022 midterms, our party’s leaders have a clear opportunity to turn the politics of the environment on its head and make it a winning issue for the GOP. This can — and will — advance Republican priorities and protect our country for years to come.