Younger people say they are increasingly in favor of more liberal, big-government solutions. A 2019 Pew Research poll found that 70% of Gen Z believes that government should do more to solve problems. And with these younger generations becoming more socially and politically involved, this could be a troubling trend for the conservative movement.
Enter Benji Backer, a recent graduate of the University of Washington and head of the American Conservation Coalition. ACC is a youth-driven organization that is offering up conservative solutions to climate change. Backer’s leadership in this area has received national and international notice and has landed him on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list as well as Fortune’s 40 Under 40 List.
Recently Backer stopped by Right Voices with John Hart to discuss ACC, natural climate solutions, and why conservatives should engage in the issue of climate and the environment.
Backer’s interest in politics and policy began back when he was ten years old in Wisconsin. He grew up knocking on doors and campaigning for officials such as Scott Walker and Ron Johnson. This political interest, coupled with his love of nature and the outdoors, led to his involvement in climate change.
“I realized that just because the Left took this issue didn’t mean that conservatives couldn’t engage and couldn’t do so through our own policies and our own values. That is where I think we need to work toward—accepting that these issues are real, but realizing that there are free market or market-based and limited government ways that are not antithetical to conservative values to solve the problem.”
Backer says that engaging on the issue of climate change is essential to the long-term success of the conservative movement and the long term health of our planet. Backer compared it to the GOP’s battle with healthcare a decade ago:
“The reason why people are worried about Obama care is because people want better healthcare and if they’re only presented with one option that one side proposes, then slowly but surely more people are going to fall in line with that…and If there’s no substance behind your attack then you are delaying your opportunity to have a seat at the table to the point where at some point you lose your seat… And if the option is the Green New Deal or Biden’s climate plan then we won’t see the climate impact that we need, but we are also going to hamstring our economy, and politically we’re going to hamstring ourselves.”
In Benji’s mind, the best way to address climate change is by pursuing solutions that are cost-effective and rooted in economic freedom. This can only occur in a free-enterprise, capitalistic society.
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One approach that Backer and his team at ACC are advancing is natural climate solutions through ACC’s “Rooted in America” campaign. Natural climate solutions can include tree planting, wetland restoration, and other conservation efforts. As Backer explains:
“I really love environmental solutions because it really puts the environment back into environmentalism- and that’s something that I think we need to do…There’s really something special about natural solutions. What natural solutions is, is a focus on climate solutions that relate to nature. That means planting more trees, restoring wetlands, restoring coral reefs. All those things reduce carbon emissions… we can return to nature to solve climate change. It won’t do it all itself, but it is a huge step that can reduce up to 37% of CO2 emissions across the world. That’s a huge number of CO2 emissions that we don’t have the opportunity to decrease yet through other ways without a lot more technological innovation.”
Specifically, ACC’s “Rooted in America” campaign will return to America’s environmental and conservation roots and use these roots to “build communities in different parts of the country” and create a consensus on the importance of nature-based solutions. As Backer puts it, “it’s a huge opportunity to be at the table, and it’s the best way for us to do something in the short term and there’s the most political consensus around it and it’s the most cost-effective.”
Given the importance of environmental issues for our climate and our free-enterprise system at large, it is encouraging to see Backer and his team at ACC’s leading in this arena. Through their youthful energy and persistent dedication to promoting conservative solutions to climate change, they are creating a national and international coalition of free-market environmentalists.
Watch the full interview here.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.