In a recent National Clean Energy Week panel, sponsored by the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte spoke with conservative Gen Z leaders about climate change and the Republican party. Ayotte was joined by American Conservation Coalition (ACC) president Benji Backer; Morgan Zegers, president of Young Americans Against Socialism (YAAS); Ben Rajadurai, executive director of the College Republican National Committee; and Colorado College student, Nate Hochman.
Access to the full discussion can be found here.
Senator Ayotte began the conversation by asking why each of the panelists became conservatives. Benji Backer said he recognized growing up in Wisconsin that local solutions were more effective “than having the government tell them what to do.”
This philosophy has attracted many young voices to conservatism and added “there is absolutely no way that the conservative youth movement won’t dominate environmentalism for years to come.”
ACC currently has a presence in over 200 campuses across the nation and emphasizes the values of environmental stewardship and local solutions.
On environmental stewardship, Nate Hochman, who wrote “Towards a Conservative Environmentalism” for National Review, added that environmentalism and conservation are inherently conservative saying, “Conservatism that rejects environmental conservation is incomplete.”
The panel noted this statement may come as a surprise to many who do not see the conservative movement, or Republicans as champions of the environment. To this, Backer admitted that the right has had a messaging problem. “Even though we’re getting more policies done arguably, than the left of center side, we have to talk about it more.”
Morgan Zegers, president of Young Americans Against Socialism, pointed out that this messaging problem is a serious issue.
“I think my concern with conservatives being so silent on issues like the environment [is that] we’re leaving this vacuum and the left, the far left is filling it with these radical policies. And there’s no room for moderate debate [or] common-sense solutions,” Zegers said.
Ben Rajadurai echoed this sentiment and said that the party as a whole needs to take the first step in tackling climate change by simply acknowledging it as real.
“I think right now, where the party stands on a lot of these issues, just a simple acknowledgment of the fact that this [climate change] is a real issue that we need to address is a huge first step,” Rajadurai said.