Fun fact: Environmentalism is good politics, for The Right too

Theresa May photo
CC BY 2.0 EU2017EE Estonian Presidency

If only the hardcore base would get out of the way...

As news broke that regulators would skupper Rick Perry's plan for a coal bail out, I was yet again struck by the fact that UK Conservatives are trying hard to present themselves as a pro-active force for environmental sustainability. As reported over at Business Green, Prime Minister Theresa May is planning a major speech on the environment this Thursday, highlights of which are likely to include:

— A confirmed commitment to taxing single-use plastics, something which had been hinted at before.
— Planting of 50 million trees along a 120-mile corridor between Liverpool and Leeds.
— A U-turn on campaign promises for a "free vote" for repealing the fox hunting ban.

Let's be clear, none of these measures by themselves are groundbreaking. And they are nowhere near what is needed to address the major crisis that our confluence of environmental challenges represents.

But coming on the heels of promises of ambitious, sustainability-focused agricultural subsidy reform and a major investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, they are one more sign that UK Conservatives now understand what all sensible politicians should know: Pro-environmental positions offer a rare opportunity to inspire and unite people in a world that's all too often depressing and divisive.

And I do believe that's true, even among conservatives here in the US.

After all, a majority of Americans support climate action. A majority of Trump voters want clean energy. And 100% of Americans quite like having clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat.

The problem we face here in the United States is not conservatives in general being opposed to clean energy. Rather, we face the challenge of extremist, climate skeptic elements of the base using climate change and renewables subsidies as a proxy war for broader cultural themes -- and more moderate conservatives not necessarily seeing climate or the environment as a priority for action. But until recently, the UK Conservative party faced those elements and those calculations too. Something there has shifted: And that something is the recognition that young people—already reeling from the shock of Brexit—happen to want politicians who will safeguard their future.

It might seem like a long way away right now, but that tide can shift in the US too. Indeed as clean energy becomes more commonplace and more affordable, and as smarter, more livable cities become the norm, not the exception, we will reach a tipping point where standing against progress will appear as dumb and as short-sighted to conservative politicians as most of us already know it is.

I, for one, can't wait. I'm going to do what I can to make it happen. And then, when it does, we will need to keep pushing to make sure that the momentum keeps building.

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