Working to Make Climate Change a Bridge, Not a Wedge

Citizens’ Climate Lobby in front of the Capitol.

By David Holmquist

Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the volunteer climate policy advocacy organization, held its 10th annual International Conference and Lobby Day this past June in Washington, DC.

The conference began on the afternoon of Saturday, June 8, and lasted through Monday evening. It included advanced seminars on diversity, climate policy and climate communications. Over two days, more than 40 workshops and panel discussions explored structured lobby training for new climate advocates, skill-building and political strategy, and up-to-the-minute lobby training to prepare all the volunteers for the Tuesday Lobby Day.

On Monday, nearly 2,000 conference attendees packed the Regency Ballroom at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel to hear three compelling keynote speakers. The morning started with an address by Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and professor at Texas Tech University. Dr. Hayhoe hosts the PBS digital series “Global Weirding” and has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. She is a member of CCL’s Advisory Board.

Dr. Hayhoe was followed by Piper Christian, a CCL volunteer and a first-year student at the University of Utah. Piper told the story of her work with a group of students which in 2018 succeeded in convincing the Utah State Legislature to pass a resolution recognizing the impacts of climate change and encouraging emissions reductions.

Piper Christian, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, and Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali spoke at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby 10th annual International Conference in Washington, DC.

Piper Christian, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, and Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali spoke at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby 10th annual International Conference in Washington, DC.

The closing keynote on Monday was given by Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, who serves as the Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. Previously, Dr. Ali had a 24-year career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most of it as senior advisor in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, where he was a founding member at its creation in 1992. He left the EPA in the Spring of 2017 in protest of the proposed closing of the Office. He is internationally recognized as a thought leader, speaker, policy maker and facilitator.

On Tuesday, June 11, some 1,500 volunteers, well-trained and highly motivated, descended on Capitol Hill to make their case to lawmakers for bipartisan legislation to put a fee on carbon and return the revenue to American households. Climate advocates had scheduled meetings with 529 offices in the House of Representatives and Senate, specifically to generate support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). The legislation would place a fee on the extraction of fossil fuels—based on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when they are burned—that would begin at $15 per ton and increase by $10 a ton each year. The revenue is to be returned to every American in equal monthly payments, providing a net financial benefit to the majority of families while increasing the price of fossil-based energy relative to cleaner alternatives.

Going into the Lobby Day, the legislation had 45 House co-sponsors, including Florida Republican Francis Rooney. Since then, an additional 14 members have signed on, including Representative Danny Davis of the 7th District of Illinois, which includes Oak Park and most of River Forest. Other Chicago-area co-sponsors are Representatives Dan Lipinski, Jan Schakowsky and Robin Kelly.

“I think we had a good day,” said CCL Vice President for Government Affairs Danny Richter. “I expect to see a surge of new co-sponsors on the bill, and many doors opened for our volunteers on the Hill.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) is expected to introduce a Senate version of the bill when he identifies a Republican co-sponsor, and CCL volunteers asked their senators, especially Republicans, to work with Coons to introduce the bill as bipartisan, bicameral legislation.

Throughout the day, volunteers imparted the message that it’s time to make climate change a bridge issue between the parties instead of a wedge issue.

“This is a problem that’s too big for one party to handle,” said CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds in a recent blog post on the CCL website. “We’re taking a bipartisan approach to solving climate change because it’s the only viable pathway to enacting major legislation, and we think the Energy Innovation Act can bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans.”

Since 2016, participation in the annual CCL Conference and Lobby Day has doubled, while public opinion research has shown a significant upswing in concern about climate change across the political spectrum. These trends reflect a growing realization that we need to move rapidly to place a significant price on carbon pollution in order to begin emissions reductions on the scale necessary to avoid severe social and economic dislocation.

Founded in 2007, Citizens’ Climate Lobby now has 540 chapters organized by Congressional district in the United States, and chapters in 56 other countries around the world. For more information, visit

Energy Information and Carbon Dividend Act
public opinion research