Citizen Engagement should be the Rule

Civil Society Spring Meetings, Day 2

Today, the running theme is citizen engagement. My day began with an online video conference with volunteer leaders in Bangladesh. These are smart, creative citizens, working to build awareness, openness to constructive collaboration, and political will for exemplary climate policy. They face a constant struggle against the cynicism most of us conscientiously teach ourselves to accept.

Working with Citizens Climate Lobby, I see people overcome that cynicism every day. The common refrain is: “People can’t change what’s wrong with the world,” “If it were possible to fix this, someone would have done it by now,” or at the personal level, “I don’t matter; what can I do?” Mobilizing citizens to engage in policy-making almost always requires overcoming such illusions.

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Challenging Global Institutions, Designing Better Outcomes

Civil Society Spring Meetings, Day 1

I am spending a few days at the World Bank Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forum, in Washington, DC. It’s cherry blossom season, and trees are in bloom all over town. Delegates from governments, global policy-making institutions and civil society organizations, are gathering to discuss ways to redirect economic policy, to better achieve the central aim of eliminating poverty and building transparent, empowered societies that provide value at the human scale.

WB-cherryblossoms

As a representative of Citizens Climate Lobby, I am here to engage in conversations designed to steer global policy toward a critical paradigm shift: to understand fully, and then to admit to the fact, that costs externalized to society through the climate and through other environmental mechanisms, are real, hard costs, and cannot be swept under the rug. Winning conscious agreement on that point is the first step to creating policies that tell the truth about cost and benefit, and that don’t build unnecessary harm into the future of affected human beings.

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We know how to solve the climate crisis

While vested interests push risky schemes like the Keystone XL pipeline, which will gravely exacerbate the climate destabilization we already face, global human industry has now pushed atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 400 ppm, 50% above the norm for almost all of the history of our species.

We need to change course and organize our relationship to Earth’s life support systems more intelligently. We not only know how to do set in motion this global transition; we know how to do it affordably, with no cost to taxpayers, no expansion of government, and a vast expansion of private capital investment in middle-class job creation and new technologies.

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