By James Collis, Regional Coordinator for CCL Europe
This spring, members of CCL Europe launched a European citizens’ initiative focused on carbon fee and dividend. A citizens’ initiative is a way for EU citizens to come together on issues they care about and try to influence EU policy-making.
This particular initiative is called the European Citizens’ Climate Initiative. It is essentially a petition for the European Commission to consider carbon fee and dividend as a policy for addressing climate change. The citizens supporting the petition are CCL members from different EU countries. The petition runs until May 2020, and if it gains 1 million signatures, it will be guaranteed a formal presentation and response from the European Commission.
The initiative offers a way for CCL volunteers in Europe to pull on all five levers of political will, but primarily, it is a fantastic grassroots outreach tool and a grasstops engagement opportunity.
Grassroots connections bring a spike in signatures
93% of Europeans see climate change as a serious problem, and 79% see it as a very serious problem, broadly agreeing that the EU should be climate neutral by 2050. Many of those concerned Europeans are involved with Fridays for Future, and some CCLers are too, which offers one avenue of grassroots connection. In Germany, CCLer Benedikt Nickel reports, “Being active both for Fridays For Future and CCL, I have already given several trainings for FFF people in order to share the knowledge of CCL with young activists who want to get in touch with their delegates.”
Another opportunity is to conduct outreach at events like the historic global climate strikes on Friday, Sept. 20. In order to communicate quickly and effectively with the general public, CCL teams in Belgium and Denmark produced two short videos (version 1, version 2) about carbon fee and dividend. They translated these videos into the main EU languages and CCL volunteers promoted them in various cities around Europe on Friday, Sept. 20.
That day, CCLers in various cities across Europe also handed out leaflets and talked to strikers promoting carbon fee and dividend. For some people, the videos and simple, clear messages were enough. Others offered the full range of follow-up questions about taxes, China, corruption, and so on. (For tips on how to handle any type of climate conversation, visit CCL Community.)
The weekend after the strikes, we saw the biggest spike in signatures for the initiative since its launch: 3,500 in one day. The countries that accounted for the biggest signature volumes were those with established CCL chapters out supporting the initiative. Some of these are very new, and others have a more developed national focus. However, there were signatures in all 28 countries, many of which have no CCL presence at all! So the message is spreading either directly or indirectly from our collective efforts.
Building support among the grasstops
In addition to gaining signatures for the initiative, CCLers have been building support with NGOs across Europe. This has varied from active joint lobbying in Denmark with the largest NGO, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, to statements of support from pan-European NGOs such as Green Budget Europe, We Don’t Have Time, and Saving Our Planet.
“Putting a price on carbon is an essential tool to get countries implement their commitments under the Paris Agreement,” said Wendel Trio, Director at Climate Action Network – Europe. “The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme is an example of carbon pricing, but obviously much more needs to be done, and the carbon fee proposal is a strong support to increase action.”
In total, 16 NGOs have stated support for the initiative so far, and we are still working on further support.
What happens next?
We will continue working with influential supporters among the climate NGO community, several of which have experience and are willing to help within the EU corridors of power. We are also continuing to welcome new volunteers as a direct result of the visibility from the initiative, who similarly want to make a difference in building the political will to solve the problem. We’re gearing up for more promotion during the next global Fridays For Future strike on November 29. If you have family and friends in Europe, you can share this post with them and/or ask them to sign and share the initiative.
Still, the whole project is ambitious and the end result remains uncertain, which is pretty much what CCLers sign up for when volunteering to promote climate policy solutions. We’re caught between knowing the status quo isn’t working and putting effort into the best chance to fix it—we give it the best shot we can. Irrespective of the eventual success of this particular project, it’s making a positive difference to the overall objective: building political will for a livable world.
Citizens’ Climate Europe became an official entity in its own right on Thursday, September 26. The organization has clear lines of governance and alignment with both CCL and CCE in the United States. The new entity aims to gain financial support in order to accelerate the growth and impact of citizen-based lobbying and engagement in the development of effective climate policy solutions.