Monday, June 29, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Friday's Climate Vote by Morgan Goodwin

Share this on Twitter - Friday's Climate Vote

Mon Jun 29, 2009 at 06:52:45 AM PDT

Office Map
I walked out of the US Capitol on Friday evening just as a torrential downpour started. The sky opened up, and all the humid DC air released its pent-up energy in a big, blustery storm of thunder, lightning, and horizontal rain. It was a fitting conclusion to a very intense and stressful week of working on climate legislation.

The entire day was a long and crazy adventure in politics. I started my morning at 8am in a demonstration in front of the White House in anticipation of Angela Merkel's visit with President Obama. The Avaaz Action Factory had giant green hard hats and cut-outs of the two leaders were there to show the domestic and international press that Americans expect a lot more from both leaders. Read more about that action here, and see the coverage in the Boston Globe.
Office MapBut my day wasn't over. After heading back to my house to read updates on the climate bill and send off some tweets urging DC folks to come to our afternoon rally, I left with our van of props for the Capitol. That rally, organized by the Energy Action Coalition and Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Avaaz Action Factory had been thrown together in 2 days with news of the upcoming vote with one major goal: insert ourselves into the climate debate as saying, "We want more!" (Photo in WSJ).

So by the time I left the Capitol, I had participated in two actions, led a team of young people in green shirts through the Capitol to remind reps of where the youth stand (in favor of a STRONG climate bill) and then sat in the gallery for an hour with 40 youth leaders watching the circus that is Congress.

I anxiously watched those votes come up on the basketball-style scoreboard, as the Yea's were at 185, and then 204, and then 209, and then 214, and then 217, 218, and finally 219. And that was it, one of the most powerful assemblies in the world had just voted to reduce emissions in the United States --a truly historic achievement. But I couldn't celebrate at all, because no matter how historic this event was, it is not based on science, it is not a measure that seeks to urgently safeguard the most vulnerable people in this country and this world. And it is not a bill that moves us directly or boldly towards a clean energy economy.

Supporting this bill in the past few weeks, and working for its passage, was the lesser of two evils. We were stuck with a very mediocre bill, but we were also faced with the prospect of climate legislation being ‘defeated.’ After 8 years of climate denial, defeat of this bill would destroy what little momentum we have gained in congress, But in supporting such a shoddy bill, I sincerely hope that we haven't sacrificed too much. Among my activist friends, the questions have flown back and forth: 'How weak will you let it get and still support it?', 'Is it better than doing nothing?', 'Does this help get a strong enough treaty in Copenhagen?', 'Will this do anything to end the injustice of coal mining or tar sands or prevent a new derivatives market?', 'How can a climate bill give so much money to the coal industry?'

I can't reply to most of those questions directly because I'm not proud of the answer. Instead, I have to respond with different lines of argument: this process cannot stall out here, because we would lose years of not doing anything. We didn't have a tidal wave of public opinion calling for a climate bill, but rather left Waxman and Markey to fight for this legislation largely without presidential support or intense grassroots demand.

A few weeks ago it became apparent that this bill was not going to get strengthened in the House, and reps were going to be largely left with just a Yes or No vote. At that point, many of us realized we had been naively led into the trap of supporting the bill's sponsors, instead of creating a clear demand for more with the threat of not settling for less. Creating that strong demand should be the work of the grassroots movement, which we didn't create coming into this. I'm thinking about how we can build for the next time around.

I'm very proud of the actions that I helped to organize around the bill. But now it’s time to quickly regroup and form a much stronger position around the things that we are not willing to compromise around. I agree with Alex Tinker’s recent blog post--

"If ACES does not get a whole lot stronger in the Senate, it is time to kill the bill. Kill the bill and start over, or kill the bill and let EPA use its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Of those options, I strongly prefer the former." -link

I will not support a bill that is as weak as this in the Senate. Furthermore, the bill needs to allocate 5% of auction revenues each to reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation internationally, international clean-tech transfer, and international climate adaptation. The world is looking to the US for 15% of revenue to go to these international leadership areas, and currently only 7% is spread over them. The bill needs to invest a lot more in renewables in a way that catapults their development forward much faster than 'business as usual.’

The frame of this bill needs to be changed, from 'How do we tackle this problem while causing as little change as possible?,' to 'How can we be transformational?.'

I walked out of the capitol in a very reflective mood, but over the weekend the path ahead has become much clearer. We need to be clear that we will not settle for anything less than a transformational piece of legislation that reflects the urgency of the crisis we are in, not to mention the opportunity that a very different future provides.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel Rock the White House

Washington, DC - Youth representatives of, a global advocacy group, rallied in Lafayette Park across from the White House today to give a warm welcome to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. With chants such as "1.5 Keep Us Alive!" and "It's Hot In Here, There's Too Much Carbon in the Atmosphere!," the activists performed a dance routine behind 7 foot green hardhats, representing a clean and prosperous global green economy. The demonstration pushed Obama and Merkel to commit to keeping the global temperature 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels through immediate action during the G8 summit next month and in Copenhagen this December. Merkel's visit also falls on the same day as the House vote for the Waxmen-Markey bill, otherwise known as ACES (American Clean Energy and Security Act). If passed, the United States will have a climate bill that may boost their international reputation on climate change. Germany and the United States are key players in the climate negotiations and the demonstrators hope that Merkel will push Obama towards stronger standards.

Related Links:
Boston Globe

Wall Street Journal

German TV - Tagesschau

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Capitol Hill Flash Mob

The crowded Longworth Cafeteria on the day of the Flash Mob.
For a video of the event see

A buzz accompanied the lunchtime rush at Longworth Cafeteria on Capitol Hill today as staffers and Reps looked at their watches and talked amongst themselves ready to witness an activist flash mob making a statement about the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Flash mobs are Internet organized convergences of people for a pre-organized purpose.

Over 30 young activists converged on the cafeteria, cleverly wearing the suit-and-tie disguise that is customary there, and doing nothing out of the ordinary until at precisely 12:15 pm they froze like statues. Where groups of 'mobbers' stood close together, frozen, reaching for ketchup, adjusting glasses, adjusting a hair clip, paused mid-stride etc, the effect was striking. At the end of two minutes of stillness one member of the ‘mob’ yelled out tick, tick, tick, a catch cry of Tck Tck Tck a global campaign for urgent climate action run by the Global Humanitarian Forum and supported by a broad coalition of climate groups.

Following this signal, the flash mob raised its voice in unison, crying out “The world can’t wait any longer. The ACES bill must be stronger. Solve climate change now.” Instantly the group dispersed distributing playing cards (all aces) throughout the cafeteria with the message “The world needs better. Make ACES stronger. Strengthen and pass HR2454.”

'Mobbers' heard about the event through an anonymous craigslist post, twitter messages and email forwards from the original The up and coming Flash Mob got coverage on and rumor spread through staffers and Representatives through a number of listserves and groups giving them the heads up.

"I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I had to be here to find out. It was sent out to all these listserves and wasn't sure if they were going to get arrested or something." Said one anonymous staffer.

The initiator of the event is still unclear, althought the Avaaz action factory stepped up and organized over 100 ace cards and had about 15 people there.

Editorializing, this action really got me thinking about public space and what our power is to be disruptive. There's a lot of assumptions we make about what we can't do in places like that, and we need to think a lot more creatively about how to get our voice across without big bucks but with savvy organizing and twitter.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Lincoln’s Copenhagen Address on the Hill

This is a guest post by Rachel Young, Avaaz Action Factory Fellow.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what our nation does or does not do at Copenhagen. It is for Barack Obama to undertake the unfinished work of climate change mitigation and nobly advance a treaty that will ensure the survival of all nations and peoples.”


On the last day of unproductive climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Abraham Lincoln came to the Hill with a message for President Obama: it’s time to rise to the challenge of the century and solve global warming.this December. As Lincoln demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges, so too must President Obama show bold global leadership in halting climate change. By publicly committing to go to Copenhagen, Obama will prove that stopping global warming is truly a priority of his administration.

In the halls of Congress (and outside the Capitol South metro station) Honest Abe delivered his “Copenhagen Address”—a riff off of Lincoln’s most renowned speech tailored to address the crippling lack of US leadership in halting climate change:

“It is often said that global recession precludes the possibility of strong climate mitigation. But, in a larger sense, we cannot back down from this challenge, lest it continues to grow until waters overwhelm out coastal cities, deserts encroach on our fertile plains, and the parched voice of a mother with no water for her child calls to her relative far away, only to find that she has been displaced by floods. In the face of such a future, we have no choice but to demand that our leader, Barack Obama, consecrates the negotiations at Copenhagen with his presence.”

Lincoln drew the attention of hundreds of commuters slowly winding their way out of the metro station, and caused quite a stir outside the Energy & Commerce subcommittee markup before he was asked to leave by the capitol police.

The Copenhagen Address was strategically delivered at a key point during the buildup to Copenhagen, on the last day of the UN climate talks in Bonn. The Bonn negotiations failed to spark the dramatic progress that is necessary to produce a strong international climate treaty in December, and time to make crucial international agreements is quickly running out. Industrialized countries refused to agree to the aggressive emissions reductions in the near-term, and the talks largely stalled as developed countries pushed for even weaker targets. Although Obama’s team has claimed to support a strong treaty, the US failed to take a leadership role at Bonn.

Our message as youth is simple: actions speak louder than words. To prove that the US will truly take the lead in solving climate change, Obama must utilize his global political capital to push all nations toward a scientifically sound, politically aggressive Copenhagen treaty. In openly committing to going to Copenhagen, Obama will draw much-needed attention to the negotiations, and send a clear message to other nations that the US will not obstruct climate negotiations this time around.

As President, Obama must also pressure policymakers at home to ensure that the US takes a leadership role by addressing global warming at home. Passing a vigorous domestic energy bill that provides for clean, sustainable energy infrastructure is a crucial part of this process. This bill in it’s current form, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), provides for only a 3% reduction in CO2 emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. As such, ACESA will likely fail to cut US emissions enough to slow climate change, nor is it sufficient to convince other nations that the US is prepared to take global warming seriously on an international stage. With special interests continuing to poke holes in the bill, it is possible that ACESA will generate even poorer results.

The President’s appearance in Copenhagen, in conjunction with moving a strong climate bill through Congress, would provide a serious and committed stance on battling climate change. As young people, we will inherit the disastrous results of global warming: rising ocean levels, extreme storms, widespread drought and desertification, the spread of disease, the rapid loss of entire ecosystems—the list goes on and on. Because we are the ones who must live with the consequences of inaction, we have united around the globe to call for a strong climate treaty. Lincoln’s appearance at the Rayburn Building during the ACESA markups served as a reminder to Congress that domestic leadership is crucial to building an effective, equitable, and aggressive climate treaty in December.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

DC Climate Action

How to use Blogger:
  • Posts: To post a blog entry, click New Post on the task bark in the top-right corner of the screen (or click new post on the home screen after signing in). To edit a posted blog, click the yellow pencil at the bottom of the post on the blog page. This will take you to the editing screen. Once on the editing screen you also have the option to delete a post. To delete, select Delete.
  • Gadgets: To add a gadget, click Customize on the task bar. This will take you the edit screen where you can add gadgets to the right-hand side of the screen. Simply click Add Gadget to customize. You can also delete gadgets by clicking on it and selecting Remove. You