COMMENTARY: Citizens join forces to address climate crisis

Environmental groups can be hard to tell apart at first glance; many have three or four letter acronyms and include either “environment” or “climate” in their names. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is perhaps best differentiated by considering the words on either side of “Climate” in our name: “Citizens” and “Lobby.”

Citizens lobbying their elected officials is the primary purpose of CCL. We build relationships with local, state and national politicians and urge them to act with sufficient force to deal with the climate crisis. As opposed to writing a check to support the work of experts (though this is important, too) CCL offers an opportunity to use your energy, talents and passion. We find taking action to be one of the most helpful ways to cope with the alarming concerns we face.

Another important distinction of Citizens’ Climate Lobby is that we are solely concerned with carbon pollution pricing. We advocate for a specific type of pricing called carbon fee and dividend. 

Carbon fee and dividend is a predictable, steadily-rising fee on fuels that create carbon pollution. All fees collected (minus minor administrative costs) are returned to households as a monthly dividend. In just 20 years, such a system could reduce U.S. carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.1 million jobs to the American economy. Canada has already enacted a nationwide carbon fee and dividend and many countries worldwide, including China, have adopted various forms of carbon pollution pricing.

Scientists and economists alike say carbon pollution pricing is the best first step toward reducing the impacts of warming caused by excessive and increasing levels of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Other activities undertaken to address the climate crisis would be bolstered by such a policy.

A bipartisan carbon fee and dividend bill was introduced in Congress by a Republican and a Democrat this year. You can learn more about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act at: www.energyinnovationact.org.

Although this is a national bill, CCL works at the local level to get it passed. The North Shore Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby is responsible for securing the support of our member of Congress, Seth Moulton. We are pleased to say that Moulton pledged his support for the bill this year by signing on as an official cosponsor. Our chapter also works with other CCL chapters around the state to shore up the support of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey in anticipation of a Senate version of the bill.

Massachusetts has a long history of leading the way for the nation. Universal health care and marriage equality are good examples. Our state can be a leader again by enacting a statewide carbon pollution price. State Rep. Jennifer Benson has an excellent bill that CCL North Shore is supporting along with a coalition of more than 50 organizations. Among the benefits of Benson’s bill is fostering the development of Massachusetts as the national leader in clean, renewable energy business.

If sitting down with a politician doesn’t sound like your forte, there are numerous other ways to contribute. To build public support, which helps our work with elected officials, we hold forums and talks, have conversations with friends and family, and publish letters and columns in local newspapers. We meet regularly to improve our knowledge of climate policy and how to be most effective. All are welcome to attend Northshore CCL chapter meetings to learn more about ways to help, or just to build a better understanding of carbon pollution pricing. Each meeting begins with an educational presentation, followed by a discussion of how to succeed. 

The North Shore chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby meets on the first Saturday of every month in Beverly. We also have an email group for staying up-to-date. There is a wealth of information about what we do at www.citizensclimatelobby.org. Better yet, contact us at Northshoremass@citizensclimatelobby.org to learn more. We’d love to hear from you.

Rob Bonney is North Shore leader of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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