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Climate advocates gather with carbon pricing still in play for reconciliation bill

Climate advocates gather with carbon pricing still in play for reconciliation bill


NOV. 17, 2021 — With carbon pricing still under consideration in the Senate version of the Build Back Better Act, Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers gathered for a virtual conference last weekend. The conference kicked off a week of lobbying congressional offices to include a price on carbon in the reconciliation bill that House and Senate leaders hope to pass in the weeks ahead.

A recent Bloomberg story provided the backdrop to CCL’s conference and lobby days. The article reported that a carbon price is very close to being included in the reconciliation bill and quoted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Finance Committee, which is drafting parts of the Build Back Better Act: 

“We have 49 out of 50 votes” from Democrats in the Senate, the Democrat from Rhode Island said. If the Senate passes it, “the House has assured us they will also pass it, and the White House has assured us the president will sign it into law.”

With CCL volunteers scheduled to meet with 268 Senate and House offices this week, CCL VP of Government Affairs Dr. Danny Richter laid out the organization’s legislative strategy and where things stand with the reconciliation process. Dr. Richter told volunteers, “While Sen. Whitehouse’s vote count is very encouraging, politicians have been known to get weak knees from time to time. In the Senate, your job is to be a knee brace for those politicians to strengthen the resolve of Senate Democrats. Let them know their constituents still support this and want to see it included in the final package.”

In his opening remarks, CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds acknowledged that one of the organization’s great strengths is the ability to listen. He then, however, thanked volunteers for not listening to the voices that said a carbon price couldn’t be done. “If you listened to the experts, the reporters, the elected officials, we wouldn’t be here, but we are. We still don’t know if we’re going to get a price in the reconciliation package, but thank you for not letting anybody slow you down, and continue making this remarkable effort we’ve been making.”

The conference, Grit and Gratitude, was viewed by 1,843 attendees online and featured keynote speaker Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist, writer and co-creator of the climate initiative The All We Can Save Project. Dr. Johnson shared the concept of a Blue New Deal, a plan that recognizes that we must include the ocean as a key solution to the climate crisis. 

Asked how CCL could move forward on better relationships and solutions that matter to the climate justice movement, Dr. Johnson said, “It’s important to keep in mind that no one can be everything to everyone… It just means that you have to be more in sync and more aware, especially as the policy proposals you’re supporting may impact communities, and that gets back to the immense importance of listening…It’s a matter of building those relationships and collaborations with others who can help inform your work and whose work you can also support. It has to go both ways.” 

Participants at the conference also heard from Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist for the Nature Conservancy and author of “Saving Us.” She had just returned from the UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. Speaking about the agreement that was reached during CCL’s conference, Dr. Hayhoe said, “Never before has the UNFCC’s agreement specifically called out fossil fuels, and this one does. It calls for the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, which are astronomical. As Secretary Kerry said, ‘Why should taxpayers be subsidizing the richest industry in the world?’ A price on carbon is a way to directly address that.” 

Throughout 2021, CCL volunteers have rallied friends and family to make over 165,000 contacts to Congress and the president expressing the need for carbon pricing in budget reconciliation. Prior to this week, CCL volunteers this year have held 944 lobby meetings with congressional offices.

Sessions from CCL’s conference are available to view on YouTube.

Interviews can be arranged with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, CCL volunteers and CCL staff.

CONTACT: CCL Communications Director Flannery Winchester, 615-337-3642,  

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.