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Rep. Curtis leads conversation at inaugural Conservative Climate Summit

By Ashtyn Asay - | Oct 15, 2022
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Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks at the first Conservative Climate Summit held at the University of Utah on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.
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Carson Jorgensen, left, and Benji Backer participate in the first Conservative Climate Summit held at the University of Utah on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. Jorgensen is chair of the Utah Republican Party and Backer is president of the American Conservation Coalition.
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Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks at the first Conservative Climate Summit held at the University of Utah on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.
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From left: Rep. John Curtis, U.S. Air Force Gen. Donald Hoffman, Gary Hoogeveen, and A. Scott Anderson participate in the first Conservative Climate Summit held at the University of Utah on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. Curtis represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District, Hoogeveen is CEO of Rocky Mountain Power and Anderson is president of Zion’s Bank.

Regional leaders, focused on solving a global problem, joined one another in Salt Lake City Friday to discuss possible solutions.

The inaugural Conservative Climate Summit was hosted by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and took place at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.

Summit presentations centered on China’s climate impact, agriculture, and the economic impact of climate change. During his opening remarks, Curtis urged conservatives to “be present” in conversations surrounding the environment.

“Let’s be honest, we are allowing ourselves to be branded as not caring about the earth,” he said. “I know Utahns, we care deeply about the earth. I like to tease Utahns that they’re the best environmentalists in the world. They don’t like to be called environmentalists, but they care deeply about this earth.”

Curtis has become a leader in Congress on climate-related issue, founding the Conservative Climate Caucus — a 73-member coalition of Republicans that includes the full Utah delegation and seeks to “Educate House Republicans on climate policies and legislation consistent with conservative values,” among other goals. He explained that he founded the group to fight against “radical progressive climate proposals.”

According to Curtis, the GOP need to start discussing environmental solutions in order to engage members of the next generation who may be more concerned about climate change.

“We are losing the next generation of Republicans,” he said. “Many of them are single-issue Republicans because of climate. We can’t afford to lose even a small percentage of this next generation of Republicans, and this is important to them.”

According to an Alliance for Youth Action survey released in 2020, climate change is considered a priority issue, among voters aged 17-25, by 54% of Democrats, 15% of Independents and 40% of Independents.

When discussing climate change solutions, Curtis stated that republicans need to listen to the facts, and view climate change as a global issue.

According to the 2018 Global Carbon Budget, China produced the most carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel in 2017 with 9,838.8 million metric tons. The United States ranks second, having produced 5,269.5 million metric tons.

“If we took the U.S. down to zero greenhouse gas emissions, somehow magically we waved a wand… it doesn’t have enough impact on the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. We have to engage the world in this project,” he said. “We’ve got to be talking worldwide gas emissions.”

Curtis asked that if summit attendees remembered nothing else from his remarks, that they remembered this:

“We can have energy independence as a county. As a matter of fact, we can be energy dominant throughout the world,” he said. “We can have affordable and reliable power, we can have a strong economy, and we can reduce emissions. This is what conservatives bring to the table, is we know how to do this.”

At the summit, Curtis was presented a Business Council for Sustainable Energy Distinguished Leadership Award by Heather Reams, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. This award is given to individuals by BCSE to honor their public service as a champion for clean energy and climate action.

Robert O’Brien, a former U.S. National Security Advisor from 2019-2021 under President Donald Trump, gave the opening keynote speech, entitled “National Security Policy includes Conservative Climate Policy.”

O’Brien praised Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, stating that it was “the right thing to do,” and advocated for China to be held accountable for the greenhouse gasses that is produces.

“For years China has abused its erroneous categorization as a developing country,” he said. “This is the biggest economy in the world or soon to be, potentially eclipsing the United States in the next decade, and yet they claim to be a developing country. That allows them to build a new coal plant and spew out filthy emissions every month.”

The Paris Climate Agreement is a legally binding treaty enjoining 194 nations with a goal to “substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 degrees.”

O’Brien stated that conservative climate policies need to embrace innovation, be practical and be exportable in order to be effective.

“We’ve got to get our policies right,” he said. “And we’ve got to have tough diplomacy to make sure that as we make progress in the United States, our partners, and even our adversaries take this issue seriously.”

University announces $1.5 million climate prize

At the summit, the University of Utah’s Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy announced it will award $1.5 million to projects that “have significant potential to help address the impact of climate change” through the new Wilkes Center Climate Prize.

The announcement was made by University of Utah President Taylor Randall, along with A. Scott Anderson, president of Zion’s Bank, and Peter Huntsman, CEO of the Huntsman Corporation.

“We’re proud to administer this exciting new prize here at the University of Utah,” Randall said. “Our faculty and student researchers are singularly focused on finding creative and cutting-edge solutions to the urgent problems facing our society. Climate change is top of mind on our campus.”

Applications will open in January 2023. Nominations will be open to individuals, groups and entities around the world which will be reviewed by a panel of distinguished judges with backgrounds in science and industry.

The judges will select the best idea from a variety of fields, including basic research, entrepreneurial ventures, nonprofit initiatives and more.

In addition to the prize money, winners will receive access to resources from the Master of Business Creation program at the University of Utah, as well as mentorship from Utah-based business leaders.

“The Utah business community is on the frontlines of both climate change and accelerating economic prosperity,” Anderson said. “We are deeply invested in the Wilkes Center Climate Prize at University of Utah because it will advance the best ideas to address worldwide climate issues.”

The winner of the first Wilkes Center Climate Prize will be announced at the Wilkes Center Climate Summit in May 2023.


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