Growing up, I never thought caring about the environment was inherently political, but I still struggled reconciling my conservative political beliefs with my love for our planet. I grew up hiking beautiful trails in Arizona and spending time at the lake in Wisconsin. My love for the outdoors has kept me grounded during years of activism that began when I was a preteen and continues to keep me centered now as a young adult. It’s what inspired the founding of the American Conservation Coalition four years ago and continues to drive our mission today.
In about a week, ACC will host the first-ever Global Conservative Climate Summit at COP26 with international partners from the United Kingdom and Australia. This summit will bring together conservative leaders from across the globe to discuss market-based approaches to the environmental challenges that their home countries – and the world at large – face. This is a historic moment that means so much to me personally because it will be one of the first events that showcases conservative leadership on environmental issues on the world stage.
Four years ago, I never would have imagined that the ACC could make this much progress in such a short time. But too much of the Republican Party is still associated with climate denial, even as efforts such as the House’s Conservative Climate Caucus advocate for climate solutions. Challenges still remain, and my organization often faces opposition by both those on the right, who say we go too far, and those on the left, who say we don’t go far enough. We’re far from done in our push for pragmatic, realistic climate action. Still, I have been so encouraged by the massive steps forward we have taken, and it only motivates me to continue to push for more action.
COP26 is a huge opportunity for global cooperation on the issue of climate change. If we truly want to move the planet forward, we must push a diverse set of solutions to climate change. That includes clean energy and reducing our emission output, but it also includes things like natural climate solutions and breakthrough technologies to reduce greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere.
Climate change is obviously a challenge, but I prefer to look at it as an opportunity. By promoting innovation and actionable solutions, we can help create a better world for future generations, one that adapts to current effects of climate change and prevents further warming. At COP26, I hope to encourage others to have this perspective as well and use COP as a launching pad for real climate action.
About the author:
Benji Backer, who will be at COP26, is the president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition, a non-profit organization that engages young conservatives on environmental issues like climate change. Benji is from Wisconsin and based in Seattle.
The Global Conservative Climate Summit will be held Nov. 10-11, 2021, in Glasgow.
Editor's note: Please check back every day, leading up to the beginning of COP26 on Oct. 31, for new pieces from climate leaders in the Planet Forward network.