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Communicating With Progressives

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This training highlights recommendations on communicating with progressive groups about the Energy Innovation Act, reviews the organizational statements made on behalf of the recent legislation and walks through CCL’s ongoing plan for outreach to progressive, environmental, and climate justice organizations at the national and local level.

This training is also part of the Core Volunteer Training series.

TOC and Guide Section
How do I talk about the Energy Innovation Act with progressive allies?


  • Relationships matter. Think of any conversation as opening a door rather than winning a debate.
  • Focus on our shared vision for a carbon-free future.
  • Don’t assume that the Energy Innovation Act is the best or only solution.
  • Humility, authenticity, and demonstrating long-term commitments go a long way.
  • Don’t concentrate on “messaging” as much as bringing an understanding “mindset.”

Find out more about these approaches and join CCL’s Progressive Outreach and Climate & Environmental Justice Action Teams, which serve as a hub for CCL volunteers to learn from one another as we do outreach. 

Focus on the many progressive benefits of the Energy Innovation Act

  • Creates jobs and protects people through the dividend
  • Saves lives through better health impacts
  • Extremely effective at cutting emissions
  • The transformational power of a rising carbon fee
  • Concern for wealth inequality, fairness, and the 1% getting no more than any other class
  • Low-income individuals who suffer most from climate change and have the most to gain from a solution that protects them while leading to dirtier energies being more expensive
  • The support of many trusted messengers
Emphasizing trusted support for the legislation

“A bill like [the Energy Innovation Act] a necessary component of any effective plan to address climate change.” -The Nature Conservancy

“The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend a credible, ambitious climate effort. Taking innovation seriously means instituting a rising carbon [fee].” -David Roberts, Vox

“The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act adds to the growing chorus of support... for meaningful action to protect our country and the planet.” -Environmental Defense Fund

“This bill gives us the chance to fight it seriously and on a big scale. I encourage everyone to support the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act." James Hansen, CCL Advisory Board Member

“The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act reflects a serious effort to respond to the gravity of the climate disruption we are already experiencing and that will only worsen if we fail to act. Most importantly, it is sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.” - National Resource Defense Council

"The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act incentivizes fossil fuel reduction, supports alternative energies, and sends money back into households. These are all excellent strategies for combating climate change." - Unitarian Universalist Association


There are many messengers who progressives also admire who have spoken in favor of carbon pricing including:

“Virtually every serious economist who has considered the challenge of reducing emissions, from the right and left, agrees that setting a price on carbon is the most efficient solution. Indeed, the IPCC in its latest report said a carbon fee is one of the best tools we have to prevent catastrophic climate change.” - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

“What’s needed is a carbon tax — a tax on all fossil-based fuels that reflects their true social, political, and environmental costs.” - former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, American Prospect Online Edition, Inherit the Windfall 

“I am proud that [we] introduced the first piece of climate change legislation which called for a tax on carbon.” - Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

“If there’s one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions” -  Barack Obama, 2018 University of Illinois Urbana speech. 

“Only when the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them...can those actions be considered ethical” - Pope Francis

"I love working with Citizens' Climate Lobby—their relentless focus on the need for a fee-and-dividend solution is helping drive the debate in precisely the right direction. I'm enormously grateful for their persistence and creativity.” - Bill McKibben

Highlight past liberal Congressional support

Highlight for progressive audiences that this policy area has been one that liberals have been leading for a long time. Visit Carbon Pricing Bills in Congress for a full list of the introduced carbon pricing legislation from the current and past three sessions (one each for the 116th Congress, 115th Congress, the 114th Congress and the 113th), and CCL’s review in terms of its price, rate of increase, where assessed, revenue distribution destination, border, CO2 equivalency, exemptions, notes and overall take on the legislation.

For 115th Congress Titles

  • Rep. Delaney’s (MD-06) Tax Pollution, Not Profits Act
  • Sens. Whitehouse-Schatz: American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act of 2017
  • Rep. Blumenauer - Cicilline: American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act of 2017
  • Rep. Larson: America Wins Act of 2017
  • Sen. Van Hollen: Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018
  • Rep. Beyer: Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018
  • Rep. McNerney: REBATE Act of 2018
Responding to concerns

Understanding CCL’s Theory of Change

  • We don’t have time to wait for Democrats to control every part of government. Getting a solution, even a first step, in place now is a good thing. CCL's approach may differ from other organizations’ theories of change.
  • We can aim for more emissions reductions, stronger justice policies, better adaptation measures and just transitions, while also working to put a price on carbon to make all of those things more likely.
  • For more information see: The CCL Blog on “Energy Innovation Act: Strong and Comprehensive”

Emphasize your shared concern and explain briefly why you support the policy along with other priorities:

Yes and we’re running out of time to solve the climate crisis, we need more than just a price on carbon, and/or we know this is not the be all end all solution.

Here are additional responses you can use to emphasize shared values while highlighting your perspective on how the Energy Innovation Act addresses them:

This policy will hurt low income communities, who already suffer the worst impacts of climate change. Polluters will continue to pollute in these neighborhoods unless they are stopped.
Low-income communities do suffer the worst of climate change and environmental pollution. Our policy will greatly reduce the pollution in low-income communities that is related to fossil fuel production and combustion, which is a significant source of health impacts.

This policy will hurt people who are employed in coal and oil industries. There is no plan for a just transition to new jobs.
We support job retraining for all people employed in endangered industries. It is not included in this bill, but we would be supportive of money allocated by Congress for this priority.

Clearly this policy is bad because it is supported by Republicans.
A lasting solution to climate change deserves and needs bipartisan support in order to be passed before 2020 and to survive intact when majority party leadership changes.

Clearly this policy is bad because oil companies are supportive. They are happy to pay a tax, which they will pass onto consumers and continue doing business as usual.
Oil companies know that climate change needs to be addressed. Oil companies prefer a predictable, transparent market-driven solution that allows them to plan their businesses to an approach that chooses alternative energy winners. Oil companies cannot avoid the carbon tax, but they can innovate low carbon sources of energy.

This policy won’t work because this approach doesn’t guarantee emissions reductions. We should use regulations instead.
Regulations are most effective when focused on a specific industry, not focused across a large number of industries. Because carbon is so pervasive throughout our economy, a broad tool like our policy is simpler, easier to implement, less expensive and more effective. We do still see a place for regulations, but regulations cannot replace the broad impact of this policy. Additionally, this policy allows for an increase in the fee in the event that emissions targets are not being met.

This policy won’t work because it will push us toward fracking, which is harmful due to methane emissions.
The electricity sector is already shifting from coal to natural gas for reasons of price. Carbon pricing will accelerate the transition from natural gas to renewables faster than most other approaches. This policy allows for regulations on fracking for both methane leakage and environmental concerns other than global warming.

How does this policy relate to the Green New Deal?
We are grateful to Green New Deal supporters for raising the urgency of climate change in the media and within the halls of Congress. As it stands currently, the Green New Deal is a set of goals that was written into a non-binding resolution introduced in House of Representatives in February 2019. Citizens’ Climate Lobby and our supporters also understand the urgency of the climate crisis and agree that it requires big solutions. We share their goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels while creating jobs and boosting the economy - in fact 35 cosponsors of the Energy Innovation Act in the House have also signed on cosponsoring the Green New Deal as well. We believe the recently reintroduced Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is a key component to achieving the emissions reductions America needs. The bill targets emissions reductions of at least 40% in the first 12 years, and 90% by 2050, which tracks closely with the recommendations from the U.N.’s recent IPCC report. Because it is built on a broad coalition of support from community leaders, businesses, local legislators, and more than 190,000 CCL supporters across the country, this bipartisan bill has gained traction in the House and has good prospects in the Senate. We are grateful for the work that legislators and outside groups supporting the Green New Deal have done to bring climate back to the top of the priority list for Congress, and hope these aspirations will quickly be transformed into effective legislation to protect the health, wealth, and well-being of Americans today and for generations to come. See CCL and the Green New Deal for more information.

What are CCL National & local groups doing?
  • Multiple members of CCL staff are part of US Climate Action Network (USCAN) and participate in meetings/larger climate strategy sessions.
  • Groups who are quiet are not necessarily a bad thing; there is much discussed behind closed doors.
  • CCL's national staff is already talking with national organizations. As a result, there is no need to contact them.
  • If you do have a connection to one you feel is useful, please email Taylor to coordinate together.

How You Can Help Locally

  • Remember that local groups are far more moveable than at the national level.
  • Talk about the legislation and find out what changes a group would like to see in order to get on board. Pass them on to Taylor.
  • Open the conversation up more widely than carbon fees and this policy. What are they working on? How can CCL help?

Example Outreach

I wanted to let you know about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. It is bipartisan-supported carbon fee legislation that is expected to reduce emissions by at least 40% in America over the next 12 years, and by 90% by 2050.

The bill was the culmination of years of work of Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteers, who have created relationships with their members of Congress and educated them about the severity of the problem of climate change, and that there are viable solutions to solve it. The bill was written by members of Congress and their staff, both Republican and Democrat. CCL volunteers spent time requesting and asking for it to match our original proposal, for which we advocate because it protects low-income families from rising energy costs as we rapidly transition to a green economy through the implementation of the fee.

The bill is not a finished product. As we work with the current members who submitted it, as well as work to find new members, there will be changes, and we welcome feedback and discussion from all of you on how we can make this bill better and stronger.

While we know this bill will not solve the climate crisis alone, and that there is much work to be done to support frontline communities, adaptation measures, just transitions and climate and justice related issues, we hope this bill can be a starting point for part of a broader solution.

Closing Considerations

  • Remain centered in CCL’s shared values of respect, appreciation and gratitude.
  • Listen for underlying concerns and identify them in the conversation.
  • Be polite and leave the door open. Building trust at the local level on local or state issues will go a long way.
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Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

The Climate Movement Ecosystem

Progressive Members of Congress

Energy Innovation Act Endorsements

What CCL National is Doing

Environmental Justice Communities

  • Jamie DeMarco

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Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

The Climate Movement Ecosystem

Progressive Members of Congress

Energy Innovation Act Endorsements

What CCL National is Doing

Environmental Justice Communities

  • Jamie DeMarco
Go Deeper
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Communicating with Others
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