The sun rises on climate action

Sunrise Movement Green New Deal carbon tax

On Nov. 13, 150 youth activists staged a sit-in at Rep. Pelosi’s office, calling for climate action in Congress. They say a carbon tax could be a part of their plan.

The sun rises on climate action

By Jamie DeMarco

Put yourself in the shoes of a CCL member at the 2018 Congressional Education Day. It seemed just like any other lobby day. Hundreds of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers had traveled from around the country, and you were on your way to your first lobby visit of the day. You are walking through the Cannon building, trying to find the right office, you round a corner, and you see something you’ve never witnessed in all your years of advocacy. For as far down the hallway as you can see, the walls are lined with youth singing in powerful unity about the need to act boldly on climate change.

The very same day that our volunteers visited the Capitol for more than 400 lobby meetings about climate change, hundreds of young people from the Sunrise Movement were protesting at Nancy Pelosi’s office, calling for a Green New Deal to solve climate change. In the days since, a dozen Democratic members of Congress have called for the creation of a bipartisan committee that would create a Green New Deal.

I think we are all filled with great joy that young people are engaging in democracy and calling attention to climate change. Many of us probably also aren’t clear yet about what is meant by a “Green New Deal.” Though the details of their desired policy are not yet apparent, Sunrise leader Evan Weber says it could include a price on carbon, so long as it does not hurt low income people. “Our concerns with a carbon tax would be ensuring that the people least responsible for climate change are not shouldering most of the burden for it,” Evan told E&E News.

CCL is encouraged to hear that openness from these youth advocates, because as the most recent IPCC report stated, a price on carbon will be “central to mitigation” of climate change. And indeed, we share their concern for protecting middle- and low-income people as we transition to a clean energy economy. The Household Impact Study of CCL’s proposal showed that middle- and low-income people would come out ahead, since our proposal would return the revenue directly to people. And since a carbon fee and dividend would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 33% in 10 years, we see it as an integral part of America’s approach to addressing climate change.

There are some differences in how CCL and Sunrise go about creating change on Capitol Hill, but happily, we’re all on the same side. CCL is committed to bipartisan work mostly through constituent meetings, and Sunrise is focused more on pushing the Democratic party forward, using direct actions like their recent demonstration. At the end of the day, it is good and healthy that CCL and Sunrise are both working toward climate solutions and using different tactics.

As CCL’s VP of Government Affairs Danny Richter reminds us, a healthy movement is like a healthy ecosystem, with different species or organizations fulfilling different necessary niches. We are grateful to Sunrise for raising this issue in the national dialogue, and we know that to solve an urgent crisis that threatens all of us, we will need all of us taking all kinds of actions. Together, we might just solve the greatest existential threat we face.

Jamie DeMarco is the State-Level Carbon Pricing Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.