By J. Todd Fernandez, Esquire
What is the demand of Congress to save the planet? The plan to eliminate pollution? It’s time to figure this out.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The DREAM Act. Medicare for All Act. The Equality Act. These are the demands of the LGBTQ, immigration and health care movements.
The Civil Rights Act. The Equal Rights Amendment. These are the branded solutions around which movements are built.
What is the name of the bill to solve the climate crisis?
The Green New Deal comes to mind – thankfully. But not so fast, because it’s not a bill with policy fixes. It is a wonderful rallying cry to an ideal – that Congress must pass omnibus legislation to stop this crisis in time. But what legislation? Whose legislation?
The good news is that in 2021 we’ll likely have an opportunity to pass planet-saving legislation. But we must figure out what that entails now in 2020, and get broad buy-in so that we are ready for the ultimate showdown in 2021.
Many segmented climate-related bills have been filed recently. There are bills on topics like fracking, plastics, agriculture, and carbon fees.
But the scientists say there are 100 top greenhouse gas sources and solution areas. We need the bills to match. The demands.
Democrats in Congress are also drafting legislation. The U.S. House Climate Crisis Select Committee will issue a report soon outlining a cross-committee approach. And the House Energy & Commerce Climate Sub-Committee has a draft bill, as does the Senate, covering various pieces but not comprehensive.
Civil society experts and issue advocates also have strong opinions and many reports, now collected on one website with over 130 documents digested into 700+ policy ideas. This shows the overlap of opinion on big solutions, and a litany of details honed from deep experience. These are the elements of legislation to be drafted.
Fortunately, as mentioned, the scientists have clearly laid out the top 100 greenhouse gas sources and solutions. This list of topics requiring new policy is the scope for our demands.
Also working on this front, a team of lawyers led by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University is collecting and drafting policy language to match the various solutions. This is the draft bill language that can be a starting point for bill drafting.
Now we need to put the pieces together – the scientists, civil society and legal – and draft and file legislation tackling all 100 solutions: A Climate Bill Package.
That’s the hard part. But it is absolutely core to having a demand.
The demand in a movement is the foundation. All action stems from the demand, the goal. The petitions, phone banking, voting, coalitions and direct action all start with a demand.
What is our demand of Congress to save our planet? What do we want to collectively manifest?
We have 6 months to figure this out. And it’s time to get specific because time has run out. After bills are passed, we still have to build out the solutions, and this will take years we can’t afford. Entering the climate policy debate in 2021 without clear previous agreement on what is needed to really solve the problems could mean a nightmare of infighting and lost opportunity.
On July 1, 2020, representatives from academia and science, lawyers and organizers are starting this conversation and all are welcome.
The intention is to make this effort transparent so that more of society can be involved in the writing, filing and pushing for a package of climate bills that would truly reverse the horrifying trajectory.
Our strategy – as a people – to stop ecological disaster needs to be transparent. The people deserve to be involved. The problem is not being solved. And the cause needs much broader engagement to have more power in Congress.
We also can not entrust this process to any political party. Civil society should lead, not follow, the legislative process.
The quest to save Earth as we know it can not be an insider secret. We must have a public-facing campaign and inclusive process to generate the missing political will.
The current alignment and capacity of climate-active organizations is not powerful enough to defeat the opposition. Once we file bills with teeth and real solutions, the resistance will be even stronger. No insider strategy will overcome this global power without a convergence of massive outside pressure.
We need all the universities, the legal associations, the scientists and organizers making the same demands. We need them involved in drafting the bills and filing the bills. And we need the institutes themselves leading the charge. The Earth needs all nonprofits to maximize their allowable lobbying activities and join the fight to pass legislation to prevent the unthinkable.
There are a million points of light in the climate cause seeking direction. United in shared demands, we can be a laser that rewrites the future.
Join the conversation July 1, 2020 at Noon for URGENT: Federal Climate Bills & Strategy. Register today.