Election silver lining: City votes to support Carbon Fee and Dividend

Middleton sign

A yard sign supporting the Middleton climate referendum, from a Trump supporter, no less.

Election silver lining: Wisconsin city votes to support Carbon Fee and Dividend

By Jamsheed Cooper

In a small Wisconsin city, election night brought some good news for those concerned about the state of the world’s climate: Voters in Middleton approved two referendum questions related to climate change, one of them to support a national Carbon Fee and Dividend.

The questions, placed on the ballot thanks to the efforts of the Middleton Climate Referendum Project and the local Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter, appeared as follows:

1) Do you agree that the City of Middleton, as a local sustainability leader, has a responsibility to mitigate the risks of global warming through its policy decisions and actions?

2) Do you agree that the City of Middleton should endorse the national effort to implement a federal Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFAD) to slow the humanitarian crises and negative economic consequences caused by global warming? CFAD will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging conservation and make renewable energy more economically viable.

Both questions received a resounding ‘Yes’ by city residents, passing with votes of 80.6% and 72.3% respectively.

“We must remember as citizens that last Tuesday’s ballot marks the start, not the finish, of our work against climate change and for a livable world. We have begun that work with this referendum. We have the privilege and opportunity to continue that work with the Middleton Climate Referendum Project and the Citizens Climate Lobby,” said Kermit Hovey, coordinator of the Middleton Climate Referendum Project, in a letter to the editor of the Middleton Times Tribune. “An entire city has shouted one loud message to the state, the country, and the world. Everybody now knows there are people in the United States, in Wisconsin, and in Middleton who recognize the seriousness of climate change and call for federal legislators to take significant effective action against climate change now.”

Citizen’s Climate Lobby was instrumental in promoting and organizing the push for the referendum. Earlier this year, Dick Smith, a volunteer with Citizen’s Climate Lobby, spoke to the Middleton Sustainability Committee about how Carbon Fee and Dividend could benefit the people and businesses of Middleton and serve as a model for other communities in the state, as well as the country, to take action on climate change.

Middleton is the first city in the United States to pass such a referendum. The measure received overwhelming support by city officials, who then worked to draft language that was on the ballot.

Citizen’s Climate Lobby is working to generate strong support for Carbon Fee and Dividend by securing endorsements from local officials, residents and. Many members of Congress, particularly Republicans, are apprehensive to lead on climate solutions, fearing repercussions from voters and donors. Community endorsements provide the political cover for them to step up.

The city of Middleton has sent lawmakers a clear message: You have our approval to lead on climate solutions.

Jamsheed Cooper, a member of CCL’s blog team, is a biomedical engineering student at The Georgia Institute of Technology and a volunteer in the Atlanta CCL chapter.

Steve Valk
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.