The Green New Deal would never work. This Earth Day, I'm backing a conservative alternative that makes sense for everyone

Republicans are used to being the party of 'no'. But they should look harder at this proposal, which isn't ideological and which promises a proper return on investment

Danielle Butcher
Washington DC
Wednesday 22 April 2020 15:37
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What is Earth Day?

Confined to our homes for weeks on end, there is one thing that Americans from both sides of the aisle now have in common: a desire to venture out into the world and breathe in fresh air. Now more than ever, we are seeing just how valuable our wild and wide open spaces are.

Thanks to the likes of Al Gore, and the lack of participation from conservatives, Earth Day has developed a reputation for being a left-leaning holiday, used by liberals to advance fear-mongering tactics about the Earth’s impending doom. This is unfortunate, because Earth Day shouldn’t be a partisan day — its inception is credited with beginning a new “environmental decade” in the 1970s, and it raised awareness for environmental issues more than ever before. Earth Day didn’t begin with a partisan edge, and it shouldn’t have one today.

In today’s political arena, environmental discussions run around in circles. Divisive policies such as the Green New Deal push us further and further from the bipartisanship needed to attain sustainable environmental solutions, and the further we stray from solutions, the more extreme the proposed policy fixes become.

With proposals like the Green New Deal, it seems the goalposts are constantly moving. A focus on restructuring the economy, banning fossil fuels, and environmental justice distracts us from the best thing we can do right now to fight climate change: reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Conservatives, even those who prioritize climate change, cannot sign off on a GND because it neglects important tools to fight climate change, such as nuclear energy.

With this in mind, the cycle continues on, as each round of proposals becomes more unattainable and alarmist and the problem itself becomes more serious. It’s time for the cycle to break and for conservatives to add something truly valuable to climate change discussions. It’s time to discuss conservative and market-based solutions. It’s time to put our principles into action through effective policy-making.

Forty-nine Earth Days have come and gone. In the fight against climate change, the left has turned to sweeping regulation, higher taxes, and bigger government to solve our climate crisis. The simple fact of the matter is that these options are not appealing to those on the right, and are in fact antithetical to the conservative ideology. It has become evident that this approach does not have what it takes to achieve meaningful results.

Critiquing these ideas is not enough, however. It’s easy to point out flaws in a proposal like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. It’s easy to delay climate action because a specific bill doesn’t “go far enough.” It’s easy to fall into believing that the larger the price tag — or the page count — the better the proposal. It’s time for conservatives to add value to these discussions.

The truth is that our climate is in crisis, and we must move beyond proposals that sound nice and accomplish nothing.

What's difficult is admitting that there is no silver bullet for climate action. There is no policy that will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions over night. There is no bill that will address every challenge that climate change presents. There is no legislator that can snap their fingers to enact a “perfect” plan. With this knowledge, the best thing we can do is move forward step by step on a path with clear vision and principles. Enter the American Climate Contract.

The American Climate Contract is everything that climate proposals of the past have not been: bold, yet sensible; ambitious, yet bipartisan. Conservative principles apply seamlessly to the environment, and we can use the American Climate Contract as an opportunity to showcase how those principles provide the best possible outcomes, both environmentally and economically. Instead of encouraging heavy-handed government programs that would decimate industries, the American Climate Contract encourages private sector innovation, which will create more jobs. Already, almost 3.3 million Americans work in the clean energy sector. By pursuing beneficial private-public partnerships, the United States can continue to grow this industry as well as others including transportation and agriculture.

Republicans are often referred to as the party of “no.” While that attitude may serve them well with their base when it comes to raising taxes, most issues today require more nuance than a hardline “yes” or “no” approach.

This Earth Day, conservatives have an opportunity to present themselves as more than just the party of “no.” A campaign like this must begin with Republicans choosing not to engage in useless mockery of alternative ideas — instead, they should engage with the fact that our new offering demonstrates best return on investment. We now have a chance to lead and provide solutions, rather than just offer opposition; and the ability to offer alternatives to unrealistic propaganda.

Danielle Butcher is the Executive Vice President at the American Conservation Coalition

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