Last night in Minneapolis, Daniel Wordsworth—President of the American Refugee Committee—reminded a packed house of 1,000 changemakers that while the attacks in Paris were an unspeakable act of inhuman violence, “We saw the people of Paris come together in a thousand acts of human kindness.”

He then told the story of asking spiritual leaders what it means to be human. A process of dialogue led to this inspired response:

First: Being a human is wondrous, but more than that, each person is a thing of wonder. Second: Each person has a unique gift, but more than that, it is in the giving of that gift to the world that we become fully human.

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A new platform for citizen engagement in global negotiations—the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network—was announced at Minneapolis 2015: Climate Action, Last Stop Before Paris. The spirit of Minneapolis 2015 was laid out by former Minnesota Governor Al Quie, who said recently that action on climate requires: “Radical integrity, creative collaboration, and no excuses.” We will now work to ensure that those three standards embody the effort to give people around the world a voice in global negotiations.

During the two-day event, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Partnership for Change brought together a diverse range of thinkers and changemakers to explore and develop concrete strategies for accelerating climate action. On Sunday, October 25, more than 170 people participated in 18 dialogue sessions and 3 plenaries.

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A few weeks ago, former Minnesota Governor Al Quie said to a small room that the climate issue requires the same approach he believes should drive all public service, and he expressed that approach in three simple ideas: Radical integrity, creative collaboration, and no excuses. It struck some of us as the most clear-headed, forthright, and appropriate way to talk about how to solve big problems and be of service in the world. With the Governor’s permission, we adapted it to be the theme of the Minneapolis 2015 Climate Action: Last Stop Before Paris.

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For Better Accountability and Inclusiveness of the Bretton Woods Institutions: A Role for Civil Society

Sponsor: Group of Lecce

Panelists: Susanna Cafaro (The Group of Lecce); Sargon Nissan (Bretton Woods Project); Joseph Robertson (Citizens Climate Lobby); Moderator: Domenico Lombardi (Centre for International Governance Innovation);

Final Remarks: Carlo Cottarelli (Italian Executive Director at IMF)

The aim of the session is empowering civil society representatives with insights and tools to enhance democracy in international economic organizations. The Bretton Woods institutions will be the case study explored and the main target for a focused debate.

The session will mix general theory of law, political analysis and personal experiences. We expect to engage the attendees with suggestions and tools for advocacy and we will encourage them to share expectations and proposals.


The poet Jane Kenyon was known for her mastery of the style known as “the luminous particular”. The phrase is a reference to imagery, expression and ideas, that ground us in the local, personal, intimate, in ways that illuminate our experience of existence and of truth. She can define the undefined by writing that happiness “comes to the woman sweeping the street / with a birch broom”, “to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens”, or “to rain falling on the open sea…” Her excellence in bringing the reader into the intimate space of detail informs my own thinking about writing, meaning, and what we value and how.

The particular is what we tend to find most luminous, but our political language is full of the assumption that the opposite is true and correct. This often leads to conflict between what we talk about and what we value.

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Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015

First day of the first-ever Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia National Conference.

It’s Rod’s day. I get some coffee and breakfast. Send some emails. Post some photos. Rod starts us off with good work on how CCL’s way of lobbying is different. It is excellent, because he is prefacing the Group Start I will do and the lobby training for the next day, so that all of that other work will be easier, more far-ranging, and more attuned to achieving the desired outcome. Then we have three presentations—one from Warwick Smith, one from Walter Jehne, and one from me—then a panel discussion between the three of us.

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Report from the First Annual CCL Australia National Conference

Friday, Sept. 11, 2015

On Friday, Rod led a sunlit outdoor planning session, and we got ready to go see Tony Abbott’s staff. We went to the incredible Parliament House, with a lawn that travels up and over the building—a nod to the prioritization of the people over those who hold office, and a reminder that the work of government is service.

The structure is so beautiful, it seems worth all the cost it took to pull it together. We all agreed: to have such a temple of democracy should be a priority for any country.

We had a quick lunch in the cafe just above the public entrance, and finalized our planning for the meeting.

We were met at the desk by Jules, who escorted us to the Prime Minister’s offices, where we met with his senior climate adviser Craig MacLachlan. Craig had been through a flurry of very high-level meetings on a range of topics that morning, so his spending time with citizen volunteers was very much appreciated.

We gave him a warm and welcoming environment and when this became clear to him, he settled in and spent a little extra time with us. He was a defender of the government’s position, of course, but also forthright and open with us.

We went to the cafe to debrief, and also met with a senior climate adviser to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Rob offered us 35 minutes, but stayed for 50. It was a genuine occasion for citizen engagement, despite all the stresses of the moment, both in domestic politics and geopolitically.

On Friday evening, we had drinks and dinner at Alivio, together with a steady stream of volunteers coming in from around the country. For many of us, it was our first time meeting, though we have heard and seen each other on video conferences pretty regularly for some time.

Joe’s CCL Australia 2015 Diary


Report from the First Annual CCL Australia National Conference

Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015

I arrived in Sydney on Thursday morning, at 7:00 am, and met Rod at the airport. We started comparing notes and talking about what to expect of the weekend. It felt good, but I don’t think we could have anticipated how well things would flow.

We went to his daughter’s house for a coffee with rice milk, and then from there took a walk on Coogee Beach. This was the first time I ever put my feet in the Pacific Ocean, despite having been once to Chile, twice to Peru, and twice to California.

We sent a #ClimateSign photo from the beach, to kick off the CCL Australia National Conference experience and let the world know it was about to get started.

Alex and Rosey came to meet us, and we drove on to Bowral for lunch, at Raw and Wild.

From there, we made our way through beautiful country to Canberra, to the Alivio park where we stayed a few nights and gathered with friends from across Australia.

Joe’s CCL Australia 2015 Diary

Australian PM Tony Abbott, who dismantled a policy to price carbon, rose to power by attacking and dividing—a strategy that eventually backfired. 

Tony Abbott came into office with a hard-charging campaign against his predecessors, and a vow to repeal Australia’s carbon pricing law. Abbott had been close to the coal industry and had opposed Australia committing to strong climate action. Today, Julie Bishop, the deputy leader of Abbott’s Liberal Party asked him to resign or hold a party ballot. He chose to call a party leadership ballot, and rival Malcolm Turnbull won the vote to replace him.

Turnbull will now be Australia’s fourth prime minister in three years. In 2013, Julia Gillard, who had ousted her own Labor Party’s leader and then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a similar way, was herself ousted by Rudd. Rudd then lost the election to Abbott, and now Abbott is pushed aside by his own Liberal Party leadership, in favor of Turnbull. It remains to be seen whether Turnbull will fare any better than his predecessors. The risks, and the opportunities, are many. Read More


The pessimist argues: most things don’t work out in an ideal  way, and entropy is the way of all systems, so to be realistic, let’s err on the side of lower ambition. Pessimism, which often calls itself “realism”, is a claim to prophetic vision. The pessimist becomes invested in the reliability of negative prophecy. So the advocate for pessimism migrates from emotional investment in good outcomes to emotional investment in the idea that if it’s a good thing, it won’t be possible and ultimately to the deep and tangled self-binding we call cynicism. It is in contrast to this view that we are told the optimist is one who likes to be hopeful, despite all the ills of this world. Optimism is often described as “positive thinking”, but it is actually something very different and far more powerful than that.

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