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Opinion: The next generation of conservatives is ready for climate action

Young people care about protecting our environment and mitigating the impacts of a changing climate.

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2021 9:00pm
  • Opinion

By Kiera O’Brien

Young people care about protecting our environment and mitigating the impacts of a changing climate. This is increasingly as true for the political right as it is for the left. Which is why as Washington, D.C., welcomes the 117th Congress and next administration, our elected officials must continue to offer thoughtful and pragmatic policies that protect the economy and environment.

With the congressional makeup, bipartisan action on this issue will be the only way to move sound policy forward in Washington. As luck would have it, Republican leadership has already begun laying a foundation for results. Top party names added their weight to bipartisan caucuses focused on finding cross-party, climate-smart fixes. For her part, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has offered a shining example of Republican leadership on bipartisan clean energy and climate solutions. Not only did the senator lead the development of the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020 — the first comprehensive energy innovation legislative package in more than a decade — but she was also responsible for 10 of the nearly 60 clean energy provisions included in the legislation.

The Energy Act of 2020 will help update and modernize our nation’s energy policies by investing in a range of clean energy technologies and initiatives, from renewable energy and energy storage to carbon capture and removal to grid modernization, energy efficiency, and much more. Taken as a whole, these efforts will help make energy cleaner, more competitive, and more affordable over the long term.

None of this would have been possible without Sen. Murkowski’s dedication, as well as the dozens of other Republican leaders who helped shape and advance these commonsense clean energy solutions. These policy advancements represent a critical step toward the future — further bipartisan climate action with the potential to dramatically lower emissions. The next generation of conservatives — and all Alaskans, really — should be particularly proud of Sen. Murkowski’s clean and renewable energy legacy that she built over the course of her 12-year tenure as Ranking Member or Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

As Congress works to build consensus around a comprehensive infrastructure package, Alaska’s delegation is well-poised to address the very real and imminent climate issues we face, including coastal erosion, ocean acidification, sustainable energy for rural Alaska communities, and common-sense solutions to capture and store carbon emissions before they can damage our atmosphere. A key component to their work should be continuing to develop and accelerate clean energy. That includes supporting renewable energy and related innovation, increasing investment in microgrids and energy storage to address the inflated cost of energy across rural Alaska, and expanding our hydroelectric capabilities that are helping power communities across the state, including in Southeast. Our state has been a leading force in the U.S. energy industry for generations; it is now time to solidify our position as a leader in clean energy as well.

Investing in clean energy and modernizing critical infrastructure will allow us to begin addressing climate change in a pro-growth way that protects our environment while creating much-needed jobs, boosting quality of life, advancing American innovation, and bolstering the U.S. economy. I remain hopeful that the nation will continue to build on the success of the Energy Act of 2020 and pursue practical and meaningful bipartisan policy solutions to our climate challenges.

Kiera O’Brien is the founder and president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends. She is also a Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. She was born and raised in Ketchikan.

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