Q&A with republicEn’s Wen Lee
By Dana Couto
Climate change is real. It is happening. The conservative organization republicEn recognizes these truths and believes that it is their duty, as well as an invaluable opportunity, to reduce the associated risks. The organization comprises conservatives, libertarians, and pragmatists who identify as energy optimists and climate realists. RepublicEn promotes four defining pillars that former congressman Bob Inglis set forth when he founded the Energy Enterprise Institute at George Mason University in 2012: limited government, accountability, free enterprise, and environmental stewardship. RepublicEn’s more than 7,000 members acknowledge that America’s climate policy must change, and they are working to mobilize other conservatives.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby appreciates republicEn’s work—so much so that the organizers of CCL’s Southern California Regional Conference invited Wen Lee, republicEn’s Engagement Director to speak at their 2019 event later this month.
Lee has had over a decade of experience educating, communicating, and organizing around climate. She holds a master’s degree in Environmental Studies and has previously worked with the Alliance for Climate Education, New Dream, and Alliance to Save Energy. We spoke with her to learn more about her work with republicEn and what she’ll share at the upcoming regional conference.
How did you get connected to CCL’s Southern California Regional Conference?
Before I started working at republicEn, I attended my first Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter meeting in Pasadena in the spring of 2017. I signed up as a CCL volunteer and came to greatly admire the organization’s mission and philosophy. Since I joined the republicEn team, I have focused my energy there, but I remain a big CCL fan. RepublicEn and CCL have a close and valuable relationship: we often partner with CCL (including the Conservative Caucus) on events, and our founder Bob Inglis sits on CCL’s advisory board. I was honored to be invited to speak at this year’s CCL SoCal Regional Conference.
What will you present at the conference?
My talk is entitled “Switching Frames: Lessons from working with conservatives on climate.” I’ll be discussing the successes and challenges of communicating climate solutions to a conservative audience.
What do you hope the audience will take away from your talk?
Conservatives are stereotyped as adamant climate deniers, and often, progressives feel intimidated when it comes to interacting with them about the environment. Misunderstandings abound on both sides. I hope my talk shatters some stereotypes and makes CCL volunteers feel more confident about engaging with conservatives on the climate issue in a respectful, empathetic, and authentic way.
Why do you feel it is important to work on climate change in this way?
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity, and it can’t be solved without Republicans. Meaningful climate action requires not just years, but decades of sustained legislation. The only way to achieve this is through legislation that is bipartisan (i.e. won’t be undone as soon as the other party is in charge). That’s why it’s imperative to have not just Democratic, but also (and especially) Republican leadership on climate. Growing the “EcoRight” movement among everyday conservative Americans is key to moving the Republican party to lead on this important issue.
What signs of progress are you and republicEn seeing? What gives you hope?
Every day I work with folks on the right who are passionate about solving climate change, who want conservatives to lead and put forward free-market solutions. The EcoRight is growing and becoming more vocal. More and more Republican lawmakers around the country are standing up for climate action. Momentum is building, and cracks in the dam are showing. You can’t see all this and not be hopeful.
Dana Couto is CCL volunteer, an undergraduate student at New York University, and is applying to law school to become an environmental lawyer.