Keynote speakers offer encouragement & progress on climate
By Shana Janis
Last month, CCL members joined together for our annual June conference. This year’s conference was all virtual, due to COVID-19, and it took place in the context of other major challenges: the economic fallout from the pandemic and the systemic racism in our society.
Activists around the world were still able to come together online for a weekend filled with discussions, seminars, and keynote speakers to engage on climate change and its interactions with the issues of the day. During the conference’s opening plenary, we had the pleasure of hearing from Senator Chris Coons, Senator Mike Braun, former U.S. representative Carlos Curbelo, and Rachel Kyte.
Joe Robertson, CCL’s Global Strategy Director, introduced Rachel Kyte, calling her “a great friend of CCL and a global leader of historic consequence.” She is a former vice president of the World Bank Group, where she led the creation of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. Today she is the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University and a member of the Food Systems Economic Commission.
She connected climate change to the current status of our world, saying, “We were warned about pandemics, and we are being warned about climate change. But we have done little to respond with urgency to those warnings up to now.”
As we deal with these immediate crises, she explained, “We mustn’t lose sight of the crises that are coming over the horizon towards us. The pandemic has shined a light on crises that we were living with and not responding to.” Kyte, who has worked to build political momentum for carbon pricing, pointed out that we know what to do—we just need to implement these known policy solutions in order to make a change.
Topher Anderson, CCL’s Donor Relations Officer, introduced Senator Mike Braun. “I have felt a deep kinship with my senator, Mike Braun,” Topher said. “When we met for the first time in a coffee shop just a month after his election, he shared that he was a hard working business leader, a forester, a fellow Catholic Chrisitan, and a Republican. I have seen him lead and live out his identity with deep integrity even in the face of political or media headwinds.” Topher noted Braun’s co-founding of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus last year, and his recent introduction of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act.
Senator Braun’s remarks explained the work he has been doing on climate. “I joined Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to introduce the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will break down barriers for farmers and forest owners interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices. This bill has the support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, McDonald’s, Microsoft, and over 40 farm groups, environmental organizations and Fortune 500 companies.” Watch his full remarks here:
Solemi Hernandez, CCL’s Southeast Regional Coordinator, experienced devastating climate impacts first hand when Hurricane Irma hit her community in 2017. “We had to go to a shelter for three days, and we were without electricity for three weeks,” she remembers. Solemi introduced the next keynote speaker, Carlos Curbelo, a former congressional representative from Florida and cofounder of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus.
Mr. Curbelo spoke about how his efforts on carbon pricing would not have been possible without the work of CCL, as he was the first Republican in a decade to file a bill on carbon pricing in the U.S. House of Representatives. He explained the importance of carbon pricing saying, “This is a very powerful policy instrument that could do a number of important things. Number one is obviously to reduce carbon pollution. Number two is to help our country get back on track in terms of its economy, at a time where we’re all struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis. A carbon pricing bill could really infuse our economy with new energy, with innovation, with new ideas that will produce jobs that we can’t even imagine today.”
Sabrina Fu, Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator, was able to introduce one of her own climate heroes, Senator Chris Coons. She referenced his keynote address to the CCL regional conference in Delaware this January, in which he talked about having lunch with incoming Republican Senator Mike Braun. Sabrina said, “Chris Coons’ story clarifies, for me, what we need to do to change the direction of our country.”
Senator Coons described the personal impacts climate change is having on his home state of Delaware, including severe weather, higher insurance prices, and a drop in tourism. He said, “I’ve been working to advance carbon pricing legislation, which according to leading economics is one of the most effective ways to drive down carbon pollution and encourage market-driven innovation in clean energy technologies.”
Senator Coon describes his legislation, called the Climate Action Rebate Act. He explained that it would “place a rapidly escalating price on carbon pollution to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 55% over just the first 10 years. Seventy percent of those revenues would be returned directly to the American people in the form of monthly dividends. The remainder of the revenue raised would support climate resilient infrastructure, energy innovation, and assistance for vulnerable workers and communities.”
He also introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act into the Senate in 2018, and launched the first bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus with Senator Mike Braun last year. He told CCL volunteers, “Congress has made steps in the right direction. But there is much more we need to do. And we need your help to move forward.”
All keynote speakers showed their appreciation for CCL and recognized all of the hard work that volunteers have been doing to make a change on climate solutions. We are so honored to have each of these individuals speak to us during the conference, and applaud all that they are doing in order to make positive change, too. Thank you to all who joined us virtually, and we hope to see you next year in D.C.!
Shana Janis is a rising Senior at Florida State University where she is studying Advertising and Psychology. She is originally from Dunwoody, Georgia and is a Communications intern for CCL.