Citizens Climate Lobby Takes Campaign to Capitol Hill

Citizens Climate Lobby took its message to Capitol Hill, meeting with 52 different members of Congress, or their energy and climate staff, in both the House and the Senate. The first CCL national conference was fortuitously timed, as the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has brought into stark relief the nature of the carbon-fuel problem and the urgent need for action to achieve a civilization-wide overhaul of energy infrastructure, and the climate bill pending in the Senate may not have the votes to override a filibuster.

The “Lobby Day” experience was part of the first annual CCL National Conference, in the nation’s capital. The landmark event brought together climate scientists, oceanographers, environmental engineers, economists, activists, community leaders, small business owners and concerned citizens, to deliver the message to members of both parties that citizens from the community, their own constituents, will support them if they take meaningful, comprehensive action to combat climate destabilization.

Citizens Climate Lobby is a national non-partisan, non-profit organization, working to organize citizen volunteers, by state, county or Congressional district, to lobby elected officials for a strong emissions reduction plan that will prevent catastrophic climate change and speed the transition to clean energy. The group aims to motivate political support, across the political spectrum, for a pragmatic approach to emissions reduction and to speeding the transition to clean energy.

The CCL strategy entails reaching out to all members of Congress, in both parties, regardless of their specific views or past staunch opposition to carbon-reduction legislation. The aim is to listen, to understand what specific elected officials and their constituencies most value and how they prioritize issues of energy and climate, and to work with them to help them achieve their goals in a way that is consistent with establishing a sustainable, responsible climate policy.

As part of the Citizens Climate Lobby myself, I can say it is integral to the organization’s mission to work to transition the United States from a legislative climate of full-time professional lobbyists to a new paradigm wherein ordinary citizens speaking for their communities and for the well-being and rights of future generations, are the preferred interlocutors for shaping the nation’s laws.

The conference was a three-day event, in conjunction with the RESULTS National Conference, from June 20 through 22, where citizen volunteer lobbyists gather to push Congress to act to combat poverty at home and around the world. Sunday and Monday were training and informational days, in which the CCL volunteers heard directly from established scientists presenting the latest science regarding climate destabilization and carbon emissions, and participated in workshops designed to prepare the teams for meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

The specific focus of Citizens Climate Lobby’s efforts on Capitol Hill is to promote proposed language for a fee/dividend approach to limiting and reducing carbon emissions and promoting the transition to a world-leading clean energy economy. The proposed legislation would:

  1. fee: place a direct and steadily increasing (year on year) cost on CO2 at the point of entry into the economy (well, mine or port);
  2. dividend: return 100% of revenues collected to the American people directly, an equal amount per capita to every household;
  3. clean energy: set a price that will make renewables cheaper than fossil fuels within 10 years;
  4. level playing field: apply a border adjustment to balance carbon pricing for products from nations that do nothing to increase cost of carbon emissions;
  5. pollution: stop construction of all new coal-fired power plants and phase out all existing plants, starting with the dirtiest…

The plan is supported by Dr. James Hansen (NASA’s leading climate scientist), by numerous retired military leaders and by leading members of the faith community. It is designed to relocate the hidden costs of carbon-based fuels (‘negative externalities’, in economics-speak) from the citizen, the community and the small business, back to the interests that seek to profit from the resources that generate those negative externalities for which the rest of us pay.

The CCL approach is intended not to be punitive, but to be clear and transparent. It does not discriminate, and it does not in any way limit the freedom of carbon-based enterprises to join the clean energy revolution. Over time, as the cost of producing energy from carbon-based fuels goes up, investment will move toward clean energy resources, technology and infrastructure, which will allow private enterprise to profit more readily and more consistently than the more costly carbon-based alternative, with its tendency to extreme volatility in pricing.

This method allows citizens, communities and small businesses to pay for any increase in costs that might come from utilities or other industrial enterprises passing along carbon fee costs to the consumer, and to drive demand for a clean energy alternative. The plan allows the American people to build the clean energy future they would prefer, and to drive a new wave of investment in innovation and ingenuity to secure the nation’s energy independence and protect the natural environment against progressive global climate destabilization.

Having met with and listened to so many members of Congress and/or their climate and energy policy advisers, CCL has begun the process of working to find areas of mutual interest and shared principle that can build a fabric of common understanding and common interest between rival political parties, rival community interests, rival ideological camps and even rival industries, to forge the political will to achieve the clean energy revolution this nation needs for its future economic, environmental and military security.

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