Citizens Climate Lobby

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Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is an international grassroots environmental group that trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with their Members of Congress in order to influence climate policy.[1] Operating since 2007, the goal of CCL is to build bipartisan support to put a price on carbon, specifically a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend at the national level. CCL is supported by notable climate scientist James Hansen.[1]


The Citizens Climate Lobby is a non-partisan organization with members throughout the United States, Canada and other countries, which advocates for effective climate legislation. Its key purposes are listed as creating a political will for a sustainable climate, while empowering individuals to exercise their personal and political power. With international/US headquarters in Coronado, California, and a Canadian national office in Sudbury, Ontario,[2] Citizens Climate Lobby is composed of local volunteer groups who lobby their elected representatives and work through local outreach and media. Their goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote transition to a renewable energy economy through a market based approach: a revenue neutral ‘carbon fee and dividend’ approach to pricing carbon pollution from fossil fuels, and simultaneously ending subsidies to fossil fuel companies.[3] In the U.S., using a market based approach by putting a price on carbon is gaining support from both Republicans and Democrats.[1][4][5][6]


The Citizens Climate lobby originated in the United States in 2007 after founder Marshall Saunders recognized the need for progressive climate legislation. Saunders, a successful businessman turned philanthropist, internationally recognized for his work in micro-credit, became increasingly concerned about the global climate crisis. Saunders increasingly recognized that while it was necessary for individuals to change their own behavior in the face of climate change, it would never be enough; the time had come for Congress to discontinue subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. With ever-rising energy production and increased use Saunders believed effective legislation was necessary to cut carbon emissions, by putting a price on carbon.[3]

Saunders coordinated his efforts to establish Citizens Climate Lobby with RESULTS, an organization committed to helping volunteer organizations seeking legislative changes to become more effective.[1] Groups of volunteers organized by electoral districts could work through local media and elected officials to build public support and political will for change. Citizens Climate Lobby established its primary, interconnected goals – to achieve legislation at the federal level that would effectively mitigate climate change, to create widespread political will for a sustainable climate, and to empower citizens to better exercise their own political and personal will. United States leadership is widely seen as critical in international emissions reduction efforts, and particularly in carbon pricing, as this would encourage other countries to follow suit with similar legislation.[3]

The Citizens Climate Lobby held its first annual conference in 2009 in Washington D.C., bringing together representatives from around the United States as well as several Canadians. These Canadians subsequently led the establishment of the organization within Canada in 2011, with the first chapter emerging in Sudbury, Ontario.[2]

Since the initial development of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the group has rapidily grown and spread, from 3 local groups in 2007 to 148 groups in Dec. 2013. They are located throughout the United States and Canada,[2] and more recently branching out to other countries including Sweden [7] and Bangladesh [8] (both starting in 2013). Volunteers in local chapters meet monthly for teleconference lectures by climate experts and communication with other groups, to discuss coordinated actions to be undertaken by members, to practice skills involved in lobbying politicians and dealing with media, and to plan local outreach. These activities support the ongoing goals of the organization and contribute to progress toward effective carbon pricing legislation.[3]

Proposed U.S. carbon fee and dividend legislation[edit]

Similar to Canada's proposed legislation is similar, Citizens Climate Lobby proposes that a fee be placed on fossil fuels, based on the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent content of those fuels, at the first point of sale. 100% of the revenue from that fee should be returned to the public as a monthly or annual payment, to protect households from rising costs associated with the carbon fee. The fee should start at U.S. $15 per ton of CO2 equivalent (3/4 of a penny per pound) and rise $10 per ton each year(1/2 of a penny per pound). They continue until total U.S. CO2 equivalent emissions have been reduced to 10% of U.S. CO2 equivalent emissions in 1990. In addition, all existing subsidies of fossil fuels, including tax credits, would be phased out over the 5 years following enactment.[9]

Economic basis for action[edit]

Citizen Climate Lobby advocates putting a price on carbon based on the support of both conservative and liberal economists, including: George Shultz, Gary Becker, Gregory Mankiw, Art Laffer, Nicholas Stern, and Shi-Ling Hsu.[10]

Schultz was former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. Becker is Nobel laureate economist and economics professor at the University of Chicago. Greg Mankiw was Mitt Romney’s former economic adviser.[10] Nicholas Stern is chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and also chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) at Leeds University and LSE. Shi-Ling Hsu is Economist and Larson Professor Florida at State University College of Law.[11]

Schultz and Becker support a revenue neutral carbon tax (where all the revenue collected is paid back to each household in the form a dividend ): “We argue for revenue neutrality on the grounds that this tax should be exclusively for the purpose of leveling the playing field, not for financing some other government programs or for expanding the government sector. And revenue neutrality means that it will not have fiscal drag on economic growth.” [10]

Economist and law professor Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu, PhD, JD, also supports a revenue neutral carbon tax. In his book “The Case for a Carbon Tax, Getting Past our Hangups to Effective Climate Policy" and in his talks, he explains the economics of carbon pricing and why he believes that putting a price on carbon in the form of a carbon tax is more effective and efficient than cap and trade or command and control style legislation.[11] [12]

Economist Nicholas Stern also supports putting a price on carbon as explained in his Stern Report. The Stern Report is significant in that it is the largest and most widely known and discussed economic report on climate change of its kind.[13]

Entitled Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, this 700-page report was released for the British government on 30 October 2006. In it, Stern discusses the effect of global warming on the world economy, and states that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, presenting a unique challenge for economics.[14] According to the Stern Review, without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever.[15] The Review provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimize the economic and social disruptions. The Stern Review's main conclusion is that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting. [16] Some of the Stern report’s main conclusions are:[14]

  • The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs.
  • The scientific evidence points to increasing risks of serious, irreversible impacts from climate change associated with business-as-usual (BAU) paths for emissions.
  • Climate change threatens the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, use of land and the environment.
  • The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed – the poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most. And if and when the damages appear it will be too late to reverse the process. Thus we are forced to look a long way ahead.
  • Emissions have been, and continue to be, driven by economic growth; yet stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere is feasible and consistent with continued growth.
  • Establishing a carbon price, through tax, trading or regulation, is an essential foundation for climate change policy.
  • There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if strong collective action starts now.[14]

Organizational structure[edit]

Citizens Climate Lobby is a network involving its US/international and Canadian head offices, and the dedicated volunteers that comprise the various chapters throughout the United States and Canada and other countries. Marshall Saunders remains the organization’s president alongside his wife, Pamela Saunders. Mark Reynolds is the group’s executive director.[17]

Other staff members include: Steve Valk [Director of Communications and Regional Manager of South-Western United States], Olivia Domich [Deputy Chief of Staff], Amy Hoyt Bennett [Public Affairs], Danny Richter [Legislative Director], Madeleine Para [Program Director], Elli Sparks [Director of Field Development], Susan Higgins [Membership Coordinator], Lynate Pettingill [Director of Development], Sarah Bain [Senior Administrative Specialist], Joseph Robertson [Strategic Coordinator], who trains new CCL groups throughout the world, and Rich Vernetti [Webmaster].[18] Cathy Orlando serves as the manager for the Canadian branch of the Citizens Climate Lobby.[2]

Regional coordinators in the U.S. regularly communicate with the local group leaders in their geographical region. Aside from the few paid staff members, the organization is run by thousands of volunteers. Often volunteers will initiate a new group by themselves, or with just one or two others, until they find enough other people nearby to formally start a new group. When a new group is started, orientation and training is provided through the respective national office.[3]

Citizens Climate Lobby is coordinated through regular email communication at all levels, monthly international teleconferences and group meetings, weekly international, national or regional group leader calls; national websites; social media communication at different levels.[3]

A focal point each year is the Annual International Conference in June, which includes meeting with and lobbying as many members of Congress as possible in Washington D.C. Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby has in the past coordinated its annual meeting and lobbying activities in Ottawa with other organizations but held its first Annual Conference and Lobbying in November 2013.[3]

Priorities and Influence[edit]

The work of the Citizens Climate Lobby has an influence at the local as well as the national scale. At the local scale, Citizens Climate Lobby brings concerned citizens together as a community to educate themselves and others, including through the media, and to create a voice on climate change to present to locally elected representatives of the federal government. This includes Members of the House of Representatives and Senators in the United States and Members of Parliament and Senators (appointed) in Canada.[3]

Citizens Climate Lobby believes it is important for members to meet and create a relationship with local representatives as a means of “putting a face” on local chapters and to provide information and state their concerns regarding climate change legislation. When there is an important climate bill being considered in the nation’s capital, members of Citizens Climate Lobby bring it to the attention of their elected representatives and lobby for their support as appropriate. The chapters also act to keep citizens informed about climate legislation and timely actions to take. Monthly local chapter meetings allow members to share information about climate change issues, to plan for upcoming events related to climate change and to provide mutual support.[3]

At the national level Citizens Climate Lobby chapters can directly influence federal legislation via the work completed at the local level. These chapters contribute to a growing network of people across the country who share the same initiative. Together these individuals and groups become a powerful voice that can capture the attention of other citizens and of municipal and federal representatives alike.[3]

Citizens Climate lobby initiatives[edit]

Citizens Climate lobbyists create political will for a sustainable climate and empower others in many ways, including by:

  • Educating themselves, their friends and people of influence about the science, economics, sociology, business, denial machine, politics, communication, and many other aspects of climate change. They sponsor periodic educational audio conferences which are nicknamed "CCL University".[3]
  • Writing handwritten letters to politicians, especially Members of Congress, and recruiting others to do so.
  • Lobbying politicians directly in their constituency offices and in the capital cities.
  • Participating in community events where they engage the public in climate change awareness and actions.
  • Creating awareness in the media by writing stories, blogs, media releases, letters to the editor, opinion editorials, tweets, status updates, etc., and submitting them to traditional (radio, TV, and newspapers) and 21st century sources (blogs, online magazine and social media).
  • Developing partnerships, alliances and relationships with a range of groups towards building a broad and diverse base support which will create political will for a sustainable climate[3]


  • The number of local groups have roughly doubled each year, from 3 in 2007 to 6 in 2008, to 14 in 2009, to 24 in 2010, to 44 in 2011, to 74 in 2012, to 148 in 2013.[3]
  • Citizens Climate Lobby has written a legislative proposal, The Carbon Fee and Dividend Act, introduced by Dr. James Hansen at an Earth Day rally on the National Mall in Washington.[9]
  • Published Letters to the Editor have grown from 537 in 2012 to 1,267 in 2013.[3]
  • Editorial Board meetings have grown from 24 in 2012 to 46 in 2013. Published Opinion Editorials (Op Eds) have grown from 87 in 2012 to 251 in 2013.[3]
  • Congressional Meetings have grown from 534 in 2012 to 629 in the 1st nine months of 2013.[3]
  • The annual international conference in Washington, D.C. has grown from 170 attendees in 2012 to 367 attendees in 2013. These 367 attendees collectively met with 439 out of the 535 Members of Congress or their staff.[19]
  • Citizen Climate Lobby published an economic report, Building a Green Economy (September 2010) written by CCL member Joseph Robertson.[20] The report is now used as a source with the media and Members of Congress.

Special actions Canada[edit]

Canada’s Citizens Climate Lobby participates in many climate related projects and actions. Some of the initiatives to date include:

  • Joining US volunteers at the Annual Conference/Lobbying in Washington, D.C.; to meeting with Members of Congress [US].
  • Meeting with Members of Parliament (Canada) and Members of provincial legislative assemblies (MLAs/MPPs/MHAs/MNAs) to discuss carbon fee and dividend policy and other climate issues.[2]
  • Working in collaboration with the Climate Action Network Canada to encourage Canada’s government to remove fossil fuel subsidies and put a fair price on carbon pollution.
  • Pushing for a Pan Canada Energy Strategy
  • Participating in the Parliamentary Petition Project for a sustainable climate.
  • Developing relationships and strategic partnerships with like-minded groups locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.[2]


Citizens Climate Lobby is a non-partisan group that develops and maintains relationships with and may coordinate some activities with a broad base of organizations that share similar goals. In 2013, Bill McKibben, founder of,[21] endorsed CCL by saying "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." [3]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

In addition, many of the CCL local groups have their own Facebook page - too many groups to list here.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d Bornstein, David (29 March 2013). "Lobbying for the greater good". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Citizens Climate Lobby Canada". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Citizens Climate Lobby,". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  4. ^ "Ruckelshaus, William D., Thomas, Lee M., Reilly, William K. and Whitmann, Christine Todd, A Republican case for Climate Action". The New York Times. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  5. ^ "Changing the Dialogue on Energy and Climate, Bob Inglis at TEDx Jacksonville". 10 December 2013. Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  6. ^ "Time To Wake Up: Carbon Fee Options by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse". 27 June 2013. Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  7. ^ "CCL-Sweden,". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  8. ^ "CCL-Bangladesh,". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Proposed Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Michael Bastach (8 April 2008). "Conservative economists write-op-ed-in-support-of-carbon-tax". Daily Caller. 
  11. ^ a b "Book Review: The Case for a Carbon Tax". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  12. ^ "The Case for a Carbon Tax". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  13. ^ Francis Cairncross (30 October 2006). "Time to get Stern on climate change". The First Post. 
  14. ^ a b c Stern, N. (2006). "Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition). Executive Summary". HM Treasury, London. Archived from the original on 31 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2010. 
  15. ^ Peston, Robert (29 October 2006). "Report's stark warning on climate". BBC News. 
  16. ^ Stern, N. (2006). "Summary of Conclusions" (PDF). Executive summary (short). Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition). HM Treasury. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Thom Hartmann Show, Will America get a Federal Carbon Tax?". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  18. ^ "Citizens Climate Lobby Staff". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  19. ^ "Citizens Climate Lobby 2013 Conference Report". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  20. ^ "Building a Green Economy". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 3 Feb 2014. 
  22. ^ "List of Facebook Local Groups". Retrieved 6 Feb 2014.