U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said on Friday that Republicans are “leading” on environmental issues and climate policy in the U.S. and said he expected more of his GOP colleagues to begin focusing on solutions to climate change.

The congressman’s comments were made during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., that centered around transatlantic “conservative approaches to tackling climate change and protecting the environment,” according to a description of the event.

Nate Sibley, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute who moderated the discussion, started the conversation by saying the political left has “tended to drive the ... evolution of the environmental movement in recent decades, as well as political action around these issues.”

“But in recent years, conservatives in many countries have really begun to embrace this issue and begun exploring sort of innovative new policy approaches of their own to begin combating climate change and safeguarding the environment,” he added.

Curtis agreed with that, noting that “instead of one party dominating the dialogue and frequently dominating it with kind of extreme ideas, I think you’re seeing in the United States, increasingly, Republicans stepping up and asking for a seat at the table.”

“We are confident as conservatives here in the United States that we have great answers that can dramatically reduce worldwide carbon emissions,” the Utah Republican said. “And one of our challenges has been that my colleagues have not been at the table having this discussion, but I think you’re going to see that change.”

Curtis pointed to the omnibus spending bill that Congress passed in December 2020 that includes $35 billion in funding for research and extensions of tax credits for renewable energy companies and an agreement to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas used for cooling and refrigeration, by 85% by 2035, as reported by NPR.

Curtis characterized the bill as “the largest climate legislation in decades here in the United States” and said it was “passed by Republicans and Democrats without much fanfare.”

“We are leading, and so let’s point out how we’re leading and use that as a good example. We should lead here in the United States,” he said. “We are, (but) we’re doing a terrible job of shouting it from the housetops. And we need to do better.”

But Curtis added that lawmakers and officials need to consider nuclear energy and natural gas when discussing alternatives to coal.

“If we really want to reduce worldwide carbon emissions, we’ve got to be talking about natural gas instead of coal, and cleaner natural gas instead of some of the more dirty natural gas alternatives,” he said.

Curtis was joined in the panel discussion by Alicia Kearns, a member of U.K. Parliament and the British Conservative Party, and Greg McLean, a member of the Parliament of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada.

Kearns argued that climate change “is seen as a left-wing issue even though that’s not necessarily the most accurate way of looking at it” and said conservatives “aren’t getting the credit for what I would see as world-leading approaches to tackling climate change.”

The full 31-minute discussion, titled “Rethinking Climate Change and Environmental Issues: A Conservative Approach,” can be viewed at http://www.hudson.org/events.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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