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Home » A faction of conservatives pushes to build its own climate movement

A faction of conservatives pushes to build its own climate movement

A faction of conservatives pushes to build its own climate movement

At a rally next month in Miami, one group is trying to kick-start a conservative grassroots climate movement.

WASHINGTON — Before he became a climate activist during his freshman year of college, Benji Backer had spoken at the Conservative Political Action Conference, written for right-leaning sites such as TownHall and RedState, and made a name for himself as a conservative commentator on television.

But like many other young people, he worried about climate change and didn’t see a place for himself in either the conservative movement, which mostly ignores or denies climate change, or the environmental movement, in which major institutes like the Sierra Club tend to align with Democrats.

So in 2017, Backer founded the American Conservation Coalition, which next month is hosting what it bills as the first conservative climate rally.

“We want to plant a flagpole in the sand to say, this is an issue conservatives can and should lead on,” he said. “There is absolutely zero path to a zero emissions, climate change-free future without bipartisanship — and anybody who doesn't accept that isn't taking this seriously.”

The group has grown to more than 220 branches, many of which are on college campuses, with thousands of grassroots members and relationships on Capitol Hill.

The June 5 rally in Miami, a city that could wind up underwater if sea levels continue to rise, will feature like-minded Republicans such as Florida's former Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has integrated climate adaptation into all of the city’s long-term planning.

“It is no longer an issue of the environment versus the economy; the environment is the economy,” Suarez said. “We hope to serve as a model of how conservative policies can protect the environment, invest in the future, and address the challenges of climate change.”

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