Elaine Chao, who served as transportation secretary under former President Donald Trump, is encouraging young conservatives to play an influential role in bringing climate policies to the forefront of Republican politics.
Ms. Chao, wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the GOP needs to combat climate change with a “return to our conservative roots.”
“Because after all, to conserve is probably the most conservative principle of all,” she said Friday during a summit in Washington hosted by the American Conservation Coalition, a right-leaning climate group that targets young Republicans concerned about the environment.
“I’m not the first conservative who believes that conservation and environmental stewardship are inherent parts of our core belief system,” Ms. Chao said. “In fact, the American conservative movement has a rich history of environmental concerns, stewardship and protection.”
As evidence, she offered the young conservative attendees and activists from across the country a brief history lesson on conservation efforts by former Republican presidents.
That included Ulysses S. Grant establishing Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872, Richard Nixon establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, Ronald Reagan signing the international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol to protect the Earth’s ozone layer, and George H.W. Bush strengthening the Clean Air Act.
“We conservatives have a strong and proud history in conservation, and we need to get that out and amplify that more,” Ms. Chao later told The Washington Times.
The ACC, which hosted an array of energy and climate experts, GOP lawmakers and conservative activists, is designed to highlight and promote right-leaning solutions to climate change. Many Republicans in Congress question the science behind man-made global warming or don’t feel it rises to the level of urgency that requires action, something younger members of the GOP want to change.
The movement has its sights set on energizing a new generation of Republican voters concerned about the environment but feel they don’t belong in the Democratic Party. Tackling climate change with far-reaching and ambitious energy transitions away from fossil fuels is a major part of Democrats’ agenda but a turn-off for conservative environmentalists.
Ms. Chao told attendees that elected leaders should focus on “pragmatic, common-sense solutions that Americans can rally behind,” such as investing in the renewable energy industry, advanced nuclear energy and carbon capture technologies that avoid “penalizing the economy.”