Ceres activates businesses for climate action

Ceres activates businesses for climate action

By Flannery Winchester

Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an online meeting featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change, carbon fee and dividend, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Check out recaps of past speakers here.

Anne Kelly, the Senior Director of Policy and the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) Network at Ceres, joined CCL for our March 2019 monthly meeting. She began, as CCL always does, with gratitude—but this time the gratitude was directed at us. (We’re blushing!)

“For anybody who’s been in this movement a long time, it’s really clear that you all deserve a tremendous debt of gratitude for the accomplishments of the past year,” she says, referencing the introduction of a major bipartisan climate solution in Congress. “When history tells this story, there is no doubt that CCL will have been a profound part of the solution.”

“It’s all because of you all, nationwide, normalizing the notion of carbon pricing. You have put that message out in coffee shops and conference rooms, churches, town halls throughout the country. That’s of vital importance.”

Kelly then discusses Ceres’ work with the business community and offered some advice for CCLers who want to reach out to local businesses. See her remarks here, or continue reading for a recap:

Seeing momentum

Ceres is a nonprofit working with investors and companies on sustainability solutions. They work at the federal level as well as in a dozen states. “I could go on and on,” Kelly says about the progress they’re seeing at the state level.

She affirms CCL’s method of appreciation, saying, “When a lawmaker does a good thing, they need to get letters to the editor, thank yous, direct calls, direct visits, ads in the paper, that say ‘Thank you, lawmaker, for doing the right thing on climate action.’” That’s her number one message, she said: “The more we can tell our lawmakers that we have their backs, Republicans and Democrats, the better off we’ll be.”

Kelly also takes a moment to offer gratitude to the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal supporters for how much they have energized the climate conversation nationally and put a fresh focus on justice. Thanks to this movement, Kelly says, “We now have an activated left flank, an energized left flank, that puts our proposals closer to the middle, and that’s a really helpful thing when it comes to political strategy and getting something done.”

As our country moves forward with detailing policies and designing a carbon price, she said, it’s important that we “put equity front and center.”

Working with businesses to activate Republicans

Kelly says another lesson of the past few years is that “we can, in fact, pull Republicans onto this issue. You’ve done it incredibly effectively.” In addition to groups like CCL having lawmakers’ backs when they step up on climate issues, Ceres works to activate the business community and show them support as well.

“Reaching out to businesses in various districts, targeting Republican offices, is helpful. Businesses want safety in numbers, they want to know they’re not the only ones,” Kelly explains. Smaller mom and pop shops are considering how their positions may affect their customer base, and larger businesses are making a “really deep political calculation” about how to engage on the climate issue.

Kelly also suggests an element of caution when working with businesses, though. She specifically references oil and gas companies who have come out in support of carbon pricing. “Any claim for relief from civil tort liability, indemnification on the part of oil companies, as part of a carbon pricing package, I believe should be wholeheartedly rejected. Those are cases that are much better settled in the courts. Let’s not give a break to companies that unfortunately, as a group, have really set us back and kept us from solving this problem for a long time.” (The Energy Innovation Act, which Citizens’ Climate Lobby supports, does not offer liability relief to fossil fuel companies.)

For volunteers looking to work with businesses or their local chambers of commerce, Kelly suggests, “Localize the message. Be very clear about how a price on carbon would affect the businesses in the city.” That specificity is often much more compelling for a business than broader info like the UN’s IPCC report.

Ceres’ path forward

Currently, Ceres is outlining a few key design principles for carbon pricing:

  • Get the price right. Specifically, it needs to be high enough to make an impact.
  • Take care of those who are most vulnerable.
  • Keep the U.S. competitive.

There are a couple of other basic provisions, too. By keeping their design principles broad and basic, Kelly explains, Ceres can create a broad tent and bring lots of businesses into it.

On May 21-22, Ceres will host an event called Lawmaker Education and Advocacy Day, activating more than 100 businesses from all sectors and all parts of the country. Kelly says this is the biggest coalition of businesses calling for carbon pricing on Capitol Hill. They’ll be emphasizing to members of Congress: “Businesses are procuring renewable energy at record rates. The cost of renewables is coming down. This [carbon pricing] is the most efficient way to make progress on this issue that businesses care about deeply.”

The event will focus on select members of the House and Senate—about 80% of the meetings will be with Republicans. The event will also include a closed-door CEO roundtable for the C-suite executives to speak directly with members of Congress. If you know a business who would like to attend, register to attend or contact the organizers by clicking here. Everyone can follow Ceres on Twitter at @CeresNews.

To hear more from Anne Kelly, including some Q&A with CCL volunteers, watch the entire March meeting on YouTube or listen to the podcast.

Flannery Winchester
Flannery Winchester has put her words to work for magazines, for marketing agencies, and now for our earth as CCL's Communications Director. She is grateful to spend every day working to preserve this beautiful planet.