An effort funded by a major left-wing environmentalist group is looking to appeal to conservative and libertarian thinkers through an initiative that proposes center-right solutions to environmental problems.

The Meridian Institute’s “Twelve Big Ideas for 2012” is funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that uses its massive lobbying footprint – it has spent more than $6.3 million on lobbying efforts since 2009 – to push primarily for cap and trade legislation and bills related to Gulf Coast cleanup efforts, among other initiatives.

EDF is fond of referring to cap and trade schemes as mechanisms of the free market, and hence it styles itself a market-friendly environmental organization.

Of course given that cap and trade would create a new market for carbon credits out of thin air, it is hardly a laissez faire proposal. Indeed, while EDF adamantly denies that cap and trade amounts to a carbon tax, even the policy’s proponents have admitted as much.

An FAQ document for the “12 for 12” initiaitive says that EDF “has agreed to serve as the financial and administrative catalyst for the effort.” The Meridian Institute will coordinate the effort.

Another document on the project describes it thusly:

The initiative seeks conservation policies and ideas, rooted in conservative and libertarian values, which protect and steward America’s natural resources while sustaining prosperity and national security. As part of 12 for 12, the Advisory Committee will approve grants to more than a dozen academics and fellows to develop promising conservation policy ideas rooted in values such as fiscal discipline, limited government, market entrepreneurship, and personal accountability.

Advocacy for market-based solutions to environmental problems would be a welcome change from the nation’s leading environmentalist groups. But very often, policies that EDF and similar organizations consider “market-based,” such as cap and trade schemes, are anything but, and amount to little more than political programs designed to pick winners (low carbon emitters) and losers (higher carbon emitters) in the energy market.