Republicans seek a spot on the global climate stage

January 2, 2020

As originally published in The Washington Examiner

By: Abby Smith

Conservative green groups want to break Democrats’ hold on climate policy.

Their goal is to bring a delegation of Republican policymakers to this year’s United Nations climate talks, known as the Conference of the Parties or COP. Those talks typically last two weeks, during which nations’ negotiators broker deals on implementing the Paris deal. The space outside the negotiating rooms, though, has developed into what feels like the world’s largest climate change trade show.

The U.N. climate conference is “absolutely” a place where Republican lawmakers could engage, said Sarah Hunt, co-founder and CEO of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy, which describes itself as a crosspartisan policy group.

That’s because what Republican lawmakers are trying to do with legislation “is create the right marketplace [and] open it up with the right signals to allow for innovation, for new technologies to go to market that solve this problem,” Hunt said. Prior to co-founding the Rainey Center, Hunt launched clean energy and climate programs at the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Niskanen Center.

Hunt spoke to the Washington Examiner on the sidelines of the latest round of U.N. climate talks in Madrid in December. She was one of several conservatives working in climate and clean energy who attended the U.N. conference, many for the first time, to scope out how best to bring Republicans to the global table on climate policy.

Several conservative clean energy think tanks, from the United States and abroad, also hosted the first-of-its-kind Climate and Freedom Colloquium alongside the Madrid talks. Plans are already in the works to hold a larger Climate and Freedom Summit this year in Glasgow, Scotland, to coincide with this year’s climate talks there.

Hunt said she is looking to bring a delegation of Republican state lawmakers to Glasgow. Heather Reams, executive director of the right-leaning Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, said she is hoping to bring a group of federal Republican lawmakers.

But Reams said she’d likely have to curate a specific experience for Republican lawmakers in order for them to get the most out of the trip.

“I don’t think this conference is set up for Republicans,” she said in an interview in Madrid, where she was attending the talks for the first time. “I think it’s not focused enough to help Republicans go from ‘Climate change is real’ to ‘How do we have market-based solutions to do this?’”

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