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3,700 climate advocates gather online to plan push for carbon price in 2021


CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds (upper left) hosts the opening plenary of “United We Move” with (clockwise from upper right) Hahrie Han, John Wood, Jr. and Shi-Ling Hsu.

DEC. 9, 2020 — More than 3,700 climate advocates came together for Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s virtual conference, “United We Move,” this past weekend to lay the groundwork for a lobbying push to pass carbon-pricing legislation in the new Congress. Following the conference this week, volunteers are conducting virtual meetings with hundreds of members of Congress to seek bipartisan support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763)

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is expected to reintroduce his carbon-fee-and-dividend bill in the House early in the 117th Congress. At the time of the conference, the legislation had 82 cosponsors in the current Congress and over 2,000 prominent endorsements at the state and local level. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is expected to introduce similar legislation. E&E News reported Coons said he’s in the “finishing stages” of negotiating a bipartisan carbon fee bill that could have three to five Republican cosponsors in the next Congress.

In the opening plenary session of CCL’s conference, VP for Government Affairs Danny Richter told volunteers, “Our prescription this time is to stack the deck. Congressman Deutch wants 100 cosponsors when he reintroduces [the bill] in the next Congress, and we want to give him that. In the Senate, we have to get Senators talking to Senator Coons.”

Given the likelihood of a divided Congress or Democrats holding the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, Richter said CCL’s emphasis on bipartisanship makes the organization “uniquely positioned to make the most of this Congress. Bipartisanship is just going to be necessary to get anything done.” 

Throughout this month, CCL volunteers have held or scheduled 405 virtual meetings with congressional offices. An impressive 93 of those meetings were face to face with members of Congress themselves. Volunteers wasted no time generating new cosponsors for the Deutch bill. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) signed on this week. 

Last week, volunteers made 4,671 calls to congressional offices to show support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act ahead of lobby meetings. They also sent 1,042 written messages to Congress.

Dr. Natasha DeJarnett

Dr. Natasha DeJarnett

The conference welcomed Dr. Natasha DeJarnett as the incoming chair of Citizens’ Climate Education’s governing board in January. Dr. DeJarnett, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville Division of Environmental Medicine, provided the closing remarks on Saturday. Acknowledging that 2020 has been “emotional and stressful for so many,” she told volunteers, “I hope you see how resilient we are. The one thing we’re especially good at is supporting each other. We’re in some new challenging situations, but with support from this community, we kept going.” 

The tone of the conference was set in the opening plenary, which featured Shi-Ling Hsu, professor of law at Florida State University and author of “The Case for a Carbon Tax,” Hahrie Han, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, and John Wood, Jr., from Braver Angels, which works on depolarizing politics.

All three panelists, citing the highly partisan divide in the nation, said progress on climate change will require advocates to be “urgently patient” to bring people together and enact solutions that endure.

Shortcuts won’t work, said Han. “Big change always comes from doing that transformational work with the people we engage. I think that if Citizens’ Climate Lobby builds on all the roiling energy that we see in the communities across the country, that that will begin to make possible the politics of possibility that we need right now.” 

Throughout the rest of the conference, volunteers participated in workshops to help them engage with various communities and to build skills to generate media, grow grassroots and grasstops support, and hone lobbying skills. On Sunday, volunteers participated in four deep-dive seminars focusing on envisioning climate success, race and climate, the benefits of carbon pricing and bridging the divide on climate solutions.

In addition to the 3,725 participants on Zoom, an additional 1,285 viewers watched via live streams on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The conference drew attendees from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as 27 other countries around the world.

“I think our conference set the stage for us to come charging out of the gate with the new Congress,” said CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds. “There’s a window of opportunity next year to pass effective climate legislation, but it won’t happen unless citizens roll up their sleeves and do the hard work bringing Republicans and Democrats together on solutions. Our folks are up for that task.”

Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.