George Gemelas: Sen. Braun’s climate leadership sets stage for progress

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

With pride, I brag about Sen. Mike Braun’s climate leadership to my peers at the Yale School of the Environment. Frankly, they’re surprised to hear it.

Indeed, our very own senator—a successful businessman and Republican—is paving a path forward on the climate challenge in a way that will deliver Hoosiers and Americans the results we need. The strategy he is pioneering prioritizes American entrepreneurship and excellence, bipartisanship, and market-based solutions.

Sen. Braun started within months of assuming office in 2019. He quickly worked to give elected Republicans a seat at the table in the fast-emerging conversation about climate solutions by launching the first-ever bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. This group is dedicated to laying aside partisanship and seeking commonsense solutions to America’s environmental problems.

The caucus has grown rapidly under his leadership. Sen. Braun and his Democratic co-chair, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, have assembled a group of 14 senators, with seven Republicans and seven Democrats. From the GOP, this cohort includes voices like Sens. Marco Rubio, Rob Portman and Lindsey Graham.

With Main Street entrepreneurial spirit, Sen. Braun and his peers have rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work. While others are scoring cheap political points on the topic, the caucus has been meeting with business, energy and science leaders, talking details and hammering out concrete solutions. They’ve met with American innovators developing technologies to extract carbon dioxide pollution out of thin air. They’ve convened America’s top business leaders who have sketched out a blueprint for climate policy that will best protect U.S. businesses’ competitive edge.

And importantly, for Hoosiers, they’ve prioritized agriculture’s voice in the conversation. This spring, Sen. Braun and other members of the caucus met with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and agricultural innovators to discuss climate solutions in agriculture. At the meeting, Sen. Braun emphasized his commitment to solutions like his Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would reward hardworking Hoosier farmers by compensating them for the work they already do in naturally sequestering carbon.

Why act now? From the business perspective, Sen. Braun is putting Congress in step with the business community, with most recently the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute calling for concrete solutions. U.S. businesses need clear market signals to be able to compete in a global race to innovate and manufacture the future’s clean-tech and energy solutions.

From the political perspective, Sen. Braun is listening to the future voter. Regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, the majority of my peers consider climate change a priority and expect action. In light of this, the leaders in both parties have signaled the importance of talking solutions.

From the environmental perspective, the climate challenge is only a growing problem and demands fast-working, effective solutions. Sen. Braun has taken up the mantle, like prominent Republicans leaders before him, to advance environmental action. Indeed, the GOP has a long tradition of environmental leadership that can be traced through Teddy Roosevelt’s founding of the National Park System, Ronald Reagan’s actions to steer the world away from the ozone crisis, and George H.W. Bush’s curbing of the acid rain problem.

As the Biden administration zeros in on the climate challenge, Hoosiers can look to Sen. Braun to bring his sharp business sense and ironclad commitment to real solutions to the conversation.

For what has been done and the climate leadership to come, my generation and I are grateful.•

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Gemelas is pursuing a master’s of environmental management at the Yale School of the Environment and is executive vice president of Students for Carbon Dividends.

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