Conservative environmentalists will wield influence on first GOP debate | Opinion

The upcoming GOP primary debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is poised to be a game changer in the political landscape, and its afterparty has a unique sponsorship that demonstrates a compelling shift in the political discourse.

That afterparty is sponsored by the largest right-of-center grassroots environmental organization in the country, the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), which sends a clear message to GOP candidates: Articulate a clear and optimistic environmental agenda during the 2024 cycle.

As an increasingly red state and a home to several GOP primary candidates, Florida’s role in conservative politics will be pivotal, making the debate’s themes all the more relevant.

Danielle Lindsay is an American Conservation Coalition ambassador based in Orlando.
Danielle Lindsay is an American Conservation Coalition ambassador based in Orlando.

The surprising and welcome involvement of the conservative environmental movement underscores a growing recognition that addressing environmental concerns transcends party lines. It’s a crucial acknowledgment that the well-being of our planet is not a partisan issue; it’s a shared responsibility that demands thoughtful solutions from all corners of the political spectrum.

The debate’s significance is amplified by the shifting priorities of the younger generation within the Republican Party. As the future leaders of our country, young conservatives are prioritizing environmental issues. Nearly 70% of Republicans aged 18-34 are concerned about climate change. This statistic illustrates that a significant portion of the conservative base recognizes the urgency of environmental challenges and seeks meaningful action.

Importantly, climate concern cuts across party lines. A study by ClearPath Action found that 94% of Biden voters, 88% of swing voters, and 86% of Republicans — including 67% of Trump voters — agree that climate change is a real issue. This broad consensus underscores the pressing need for pragmatic, bipartisan solutions that address the complex realities of our changing climate.

As a young conservative who deeply values conservation in Florida and is actively engaged in advocating for Florida’s unique ecosystems, I’m encouraged by the evolving mindset within our movement. It’s heartening to see young conservatives rallying behind climate-conscious policies and advocating for a greener future. This reflects a growing awareness that the values of responsibility, stewardship and innovation that define conservatism are well-aligned with safeguarding our planet.

Florida, a state at the crossroads of conservative politics, holds a unique significance in this debate. With figures like Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez actively engaging in successful sustainability efforts, the state is showcasing a promising trend toward embracing environmentally conscious policies. Given Florida’s vulnerability to climate-related challenges such as rising sea levels, hurricanes, erosion, increasing temperatures and endangered wildlife, these efforts become even more crucial for ensuring the state’s prosperity and resilience.

Across the country, too, there are shining examples of conservative leaders who have embraced environmental stewardship. From advocating for clean energy to championing conservation efforts, these individuals are setting the precedent for a more sustainable future. As a young conservative who believes in the potential for innovative solutions and bipartisan collaboration, I am hopeful that this debate will set a precedent for a more inclusive, environmentally conscious conservative movement.

In the broader context of the 2024 election cycle, a clear and optimistic environmental vision is no longer a luxury for GOP candidates — it’s a necessity. To successfully navigate the primary election and present a compelling alternative to President Joe Biden’s policies in the general election, candidates must articulate a coherent and forward-looking environmental agenda. This debate serves as a platform for contenders to demonstrate their understanding of the multifaceted nature of environmental issues and to propose innovative solutions that align with conservative values.

Danielle Lindsay is a young professional, outdoorswoman and American Conservation Coalition ambassador based in Orlando.