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Frustrated with the US Government’s Progress on Climate Policy? Us Too. Here’s What’s Next👇
By Jamie Beck Alexander and Dr Eliza Nemser
Over the past six months, the twists and turns of the Build Back Better Act have made many of us feel like we’ve been taken for a long and frustrating ride. But with so much on the line, it’s more important than ever to remember that we all have a role to play in disrupting the systemic and political impasses blocking climate action—as individuals, community members, employees, and leaders.
Let’s be clear: there remains a significant possibility that some climate provisions from the $555B reconciliation package can squeak through the U.S. Senate. That would be a major win, and it’s still well worth fighting for. And yet, while we maintain a big push for sweeping federal climate legislation to complement the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we also need to consider what’s next.
Regardless of the outcome of this federal legislative package, there is lasting value in the organizing, advocacy, and power-building behind the effort. Civic action is a muscle. We’ve gotten a lot stronger through this process, and we’ll emerge better equipped for the work ahead, which will require staying power and smart organizing within the private sector and across civil society.
While federal climate policy remains a critical lever to address the climate emergency, other massive levers (state and local policy, tech innovation, private sector leadership, capital shifts, activism) all work together to accelerate the scaling of climate solutions worldwide — and to create more favorable conditions for future climate policy.
The roadmap is circuitous. So how do we move forward, fast?
Organize for climate candidates in the midterms; work to make climate a priority voting issue. It’s natural to feel frustrated by the electoral process and the prospects, but snoozing through an election cycle is not an option. Electoral advocacy is part and parcel of policy advocacy: we must elect decisionmakers up and down the ballot to lead on climate, and then persistently urge them to follow through on those commitments. Most races boil down to one unambiguous climate candidate, and these elections are hard-fought and close. Let’s work hard to elect and protect climate champions and drive climate higher on the list of voting priorities. Keep in mind that climate has been weaponized into a politicized issue by bad actors. The more we perpetuate a partisan narrative for describing climate action, the more we play into their hands.
Dial up the civic engagement; cultivate and equip more climate advocates and leaders. The climate leadership crisis points to a critical need to broaden the distribution of power and agency across society. That means a solid pipeline of diverse climate leadership, more constituent-based lobbying, more employee activism, and more relational organizing. We need to lean into our roles and our agency as civic changemakers — as climate changemakers— and step it up. Realistically, this involves a time commitment. Whether it’s paid or volunteer work, we can be intentional about building time into our weekly schedules to organize and advocate for climate action. Our efforts have to be sustained and sustainable, so self-care is paramount, and taking action with a community helps tremendously. Collective action also has a greater impact than the sum of our individual contributions. There are more ways to punch above our weight: set a visible example, inspire others to do the same, and proactively ask them to join the action.
Experiment with ways to disrupt the status quo, with equity at the front and center. At this late date in the climate emergency, progress often means getting out of our comfort zones and involves a complex calculus of our own talents, spheres of influence, and comfort with risk-taking. Privilege comes with an opportunity and a responsibility to question the status quo and speak truth to power where social, political, institutional, and economic norms are dysfunctional and inequitable. What we’ve tried in the past is insufficient to tackle the challenge in front of us—we need to try new tactics if we want different results. There’s room to get creative and experiment with how to be most effective given our individual contexts and strengths, from the quiet, under-the-radar work, to the loud, demonstrative, and disobedient.
Target influential leverage points in a complex system. We know that climate change is a deeply systemic problem, not necessarily an individual-level problem. But in our current system, very real and powerful individuals have their hands on the controls, essentially turning the dials up or down on the levels of planet-warming greenhouse gasses that are churning into our atmosphere every second. What leverage do we each have to influence people in positions of power? How might we reach them, or the people they listen to? We can use power-mapping and other organizing tools to map out relationships in our companies or within our networks, and get to work advocating for climate action. We can look out for opportunities to pull more, and more diverse, voices into closer proximity and direct engagement (and relationship building!) with decision-makers.
From Drawdown Labs’ publication Climate Solutions at Work
Organize inside our workplaces to move bigger, influential institutions faster. Businesses, especially large corporations, have disproportionate responsibility—and considerable resources and clout—to make big moves to advance the climate agenda. That makes climate-aware employees a tremendous force for change from within: we can help move our companies faster, hold our companies to account on their climate promises, demand shifts to their banking and political lobbying practices, and more. There’s strength in numbers; find your people and organize. Every journey through uncharted territory is an opportunity to document our steps, write playbooks, and share successes and learnings with workers within and across companies.
Commit to more solidarity. There’s no time left to get waylaid by internal division. Let’s stop with the circular firing squads and make solidarity our default. We need to let go of purity tests and look for both likely and unlikely allies. Look in non-traditional places; even inside the world’s most polluting companies, climate advocates are hard at work. Find common ground and focus on using access and relationships to move things faster.
This moment cannot just be about pleading and hoping that our leaders see the urgency and drive us forward. Let’s channel our disappointment with inadequate government leadership and bring to bear our own power and unique skill sets for this awe-inspiring opportunity to shape a better future together. Now is the time for emboldened climate advocates to move faster and multiply our numbers. We’re asking everyone to rise to the occasion, weave advocacy into our climate journeys, and support one another. The bystander effect is real, and too many people are fretting on the sidelines and hoping that someone else is getting this done. We all have work to do; pass it on!
✍️ The Draw-down
Weekly climate art by our MCJ Artist-in-Residence, Nicole Kelner.
📍 Get Local
This week’s local climate issue of note, brought to you by Climate Cabinet.
This was a big week for primaries, with elections happening in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Oregon and Kentucky. As energy bills and gas prices skyrocket across the US, candidates championing clean energy, efficiency, and electrification had a strong showing. In North Carolina, 13 out of 14 Climate Cabinet PAC-endorsed state legislative candidates advanced to the general. And in Pennsylvania, top climate champs in the legislature fended off primary challengers as well.
🍿 The Leanback
Learn about EVERY this week with Pique Action’s mini-documentaries.
🎙My Climate Journey Podcast
This week Jason spoke with Joel Armin-Hoiland of Climate Finance Solutions about non-dilutive financing options for climate tech startups. He also caught up with Ben Sorkin at Flux Marine about their 100% electric outboard motors for boats.
👋 MCJ Meetups
MCJ London Meetup on May 30 at the Crown and Shuttle in Shoreditch. RSVP here.
MCJ San Francisco Bay Area Meetup on May 18 was a blast. 100+ MCJers turned out and got to put faces to names.
MCJ Partner Team Meetup — Jason, Thai, Yin, and Cody took advantage of the SF Bay Area meetup and used it as a chance to get together in person…only the second time that Jason and Thai got to meet Cody in person and the first time for everyone to meet Yin. We missed David who was unable to make the trip.
👩💻 Climate Jobs
Southern California Edison — a major utility provider in Southern California — is seeking a Senior Advisor for Grid Strategy.
Charm Industrial is hiring for a range of roles from Project Manager to Software Engineer to many others as they continue to develop their high quality carbon removal solution via bio-oil sequestration.
For more climate events, check out the #c-events channel in MCJ Slack.
See above for upcoming MCJ London meetup details
“Industrial Climate Tech Summit” by Nomadic Venture Partners (Golden, CO, June 1)
“CLIMATE TRANFORMATION Summit” (June 2-3)
“Where to now? Artists and climate change” at the Royal Academy of Art (London, July 12)
“For ClimateTech Summit 2021” (Virtual, September 15-16)
“Fund Your Climate Tech Startup” Seminar (Virtual)
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