GOP aims to revamp environmental messaging by embracing renewable energy

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Republicans are trying to address concerns about the environment and climate change as they make plans for what to present to voters this fall and tackle next year if they win a majority in the House .

It’s not a problem the party is known for – its 2016 platform said it was an “illusion” there was an environmental crisis, and Donald Trump announced less than five months after being sworn in as president that the United States would exit the Paris Climate Accord. It’s also not something GOP voters say they’re very concerned about — only 16% recently said climate change is “a really big deal,” according to Pew Research.

But as concerns grow over energy security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas prices continue to climb and the party scrambles to win as many seats as possible in November, Republicans intend to present proposals in a broad “Engagement”. to America” legislative plan that supports renewable energy and environmental protection as part of their overall approach.

representing Attic graves (R-La.), who leads the plan’s energy, climate and conservation working group, said finding agreement in the conference on basic energy and environmental policies could be the hardest part. easier. The real hurdle, Graves said, is telling voters about it.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges,” Graves said in an interview. “We need to do a better job of messaging.”

Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) says Republicans need to do a better job of messaging on the environment.

representing John Curtis (R-Utah), the leader of the conservative climate group, said Republicans “have been extremely good at saying what we don’t like, and we’ve been terrible at telling people what we like.”

“To the extent that we can change that dynamic and start talking more about our ideas, I think people will see that we have some really valuable ideas,” he said during a Bloomberg government webinar on the energy security and policy.

A number of Republicans facing re-election in swing districts agree. They said in interviews that the party needed to sharpen and amplify its stance on environmental protection and reducing carbon emissions.

“We haven’t made it part of our language,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska), who said the party needed a unified message.

“This is an issue that we were really lacking in communication about,” Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.). “We’re not doing an effective job of communicating where we stand as a conference on the issue.”

While the climate is unlikely to be at the top of voters’ minds in November, it is an issue on the minds of a number of key groups, said Quill Robinson, vice president of government affairs for the American Conservation Coalition, a non-profit organization that supports Republican candidates. and focuses on bridging the ideological divide in the environmental movement.

“It’s not going to be the question that suddenly wins a landslide election,” Robinson said. “But that’s another reason why young people, suburban voters, women or minorities won’t vote Republican.”

All the foregoing

Not so long ago, Republicans viewed climate change as a “third railroad issue they didn’t want to touch,” Robinson said. But it has seen major changes in recent years.

Last year, the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rolled out an “energy innovation agenda.” As part of the initiative, many GOP lawmakers have released videos discussing topics such as carbon capture, expanding US gas exports and restoring coastal ecosystems.

Also last year, Curtis launched the Conservative Climate Caucus, which now has 75 members, with more attending meetings.

“They realize it was a mistake for us not to talk. They’re tired of going to town halls and not having answers,” Curtis said. “And the main thing is that we have answers, we just have to be better at expressing those answers.”

The war in Ukraine gives GOP lawmakers a chance to convey a comprehensive energy strategy that includes both renewables and fossil fuels, and does not interfere with the economy or national security, said Curtis.

“The reality is that inflation and especially the rising cost of energy are all tied to this energy policy,” he said. “What is happening in Europe will force this discussion.”

Graves said the party would not give up on oil and gas, but must also focus on reducing emissions.

“We need to improve – what I call – adoption of solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, wave, hydroelectric and other technologies,” Graves said. “All will play a role.”

There is still skepticism about the evolution of Republican positions on energy and the environment.

representing Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who sits on several committees focused on environmental issues, including the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said Republicans are making “a hesitant attempt to change their message because I think they know how offbeat he is.”

“You’ll definitely see an effort to temper some of their extremism,” Huffman said. “But at the end of the day, there is no substantial change.”

‘Winning Post’

The result of Republican efforts to address the environment as part of a broad range of issues is a “winning message,” said Heather Reams, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a center-right nonprofit.

“You will always hear Republicans talking about energy, the economy and the environment together, not separating them,” which is separate from the Democrats’ message, Reams said.

A poll conducted for his organization in February by a major GOP firm found an increase across the political spectrum in the number of voters who said their lives had been affected by climate change. It also found that 73% of independents say they support the federal government taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.

In 2020, all 24 House candidates supported by the American Conservation Coalition were successful, including some who flipped swing seats. Robinson advised Republicans who want similar results not to call climate change a “hoax” and to “acknowledge people’s concerns and fears about their future and come up with real, substantive and effective policy solutions.”

Still, there are limits to how far Republicans say they can go on the issue. Mace said she found the use of the phrase “climate change” to be a turnoff for some voters and instead emphasizes a clean or healthy environment.

“In my conversations with Republicans, it’s kind of a dirty word,” she said.

Kellie Lunney in Washington also contributed to this story.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad to [email protected]; Bennett Roth to [email protected]

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