Citizens’ Climate Lobby: first impressions

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on building political will for a livable world.

This basically means that they lobby members of Congress from both parties to support climate legislation; specifically the Energy Innovation Act.

I got involved in CCL within the past three months. I’ve never joined a grassroots climate organization like this before, so I thought I’d share my first impressions and the experience I’ve had for others who might be interested!

This post isn’t endorsed by CCL or anything, I just wanted to share the next step I’m taking on my climate advocacy journey 🙂

Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Learn more about the organization on CCL’s website.

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act H.R. 763

Learn about carbon fee-and-dividend and the bipartisan climate solution CCL is working to get passed.

My first taste of CCL was when I attended a Zoom meeting with the CCL State Co-Coordinator for Illinois, my older sister (who had already been involved in CCL for some time), and another young woman around my age.

My sister invited me to the meeting because the other girl was also brand new to the organization and was asking about ways she could get involved.

Mike, the State Co-Coordinator, gave us an overview of the organization by screensharing a presentation he already had on his computer.

My first thoughts: I liked that CCL focused strictly on climate change–the environmental issue I find most important due to its time sensitivity and global impact. I liked that they organized their volunteer actions into five “levers” of political will: Grassroots Outreach, Grasstops Engagement, Media Relations, Lobbying Congress, and Group Development.

The other teen girl and I were most interested in media. Mike expressed a lot of interest from the chapter in recruiting more youth volunteers. He encouraged us to come to chapter meetings and the weekly informational sessions on Wednesday nights (these conflicted with my dance schedule).

After that meeting, Mike sent us a follow-up email. I also received an email saying I had been signed up for CCL, and that gave me my account password.

When you join CCL, either by attending a meeting or hitting “Join CCL” on their website, you get an account that gives you access to the CCL Community website.

The Community website is actually pretty cool; it can be overwhelming to navigate at first, but it has lots of resources for new volunteers. I especially like the trainings, which teach you about topics like CCL Media Basics, Understanding the Basics of Congress, Communicating with Progressives/Conservatives, or the Science of Climate Change.

I also really like how besides your chapter, they have dozens of other action teams you can join via the community website: Youth, Social Media, LGBTQIA+, Conservatives, Christians, etc.

(Remember, to access this^ you have to first join CCL and create an account, or if your local chapter leader has your contact info, they might set up an account for you like mine did.)

About three weeks later, I received an email inviting me to a chapter meeting. The chapter meetings for my county happen over Zoom the second Saturday of each month in the morning. I also followed up with Mike about potentially increasing our chapter’s social media reach; they had a Facebook and a Twitter, but no Instagram or TikTok.

Mike introduced me over email to the volunteer who runs the Twitter and Facebook for our chapter, and the three of us met on Zoom 30 minutes before the chapter meeting.

I talked to them about my ideas for reaching more young people through the social media platforms my generation uses the most (and of course plugging how I already had experience running an environmental social media campaign!). They allowed me to create both an Instagram and a TikTok for my chapter, which I currently run!

Then we went to the chapter meeting (also over Zoom). At least in my county/congressional district, the CCL volunteers seem to be older adults; I think my sister and I were the youngest ones there. This was in January, so we talked about the Capitol riot on January 6 and how that might affect climate legislation and bipartisan efforts. We talked about action steps for the month, and the Energy Innovation Act.

I haven’t been able to make it to a chapter meeting since then, but a couple weeks ago I went to my first lobby meeting!

I guess CCL organizes it so that as many chapters as possible all over the country meet with as many Members of Congress (MOCs) as possible all in one week. My congressional district group (organized as a Group through the CCL Community website) scheduled a Zoom meeting with IL-06 Congressman Sean Casten for Tuesday afternoon.

I didn’t realize until afterwards, when I saw other district’s posts on social media, that we were pretty lucky to get to meet with him, because some other volunteers only got to meet with their representative’s legislative assistants. It’s no surprise–Members of Congress have very important jobs and very busy schedules!

We had a planning meeting the Saturday beforehand to establish roles. Roles during lobby meetings include notetaking, time-keeping, appreciation, and asking questions. The congressional liaison (the guy in charge of being CCL’s representative for the district; he’s the one who contacts Casten’s office and sets up meetings) asked me if I wanted to do one of the jobs. I said I could maybe do appreciation, although I had never been to a lobby meeting before and didn’t really know how to do anything.

So the liaison introduced me to Laura, who had done appreciation before, and told me to give her my email and she would help me write the appreciation as a mentor.

Laura and I scheduled a time to call each other the next day. I put her on speaker phone and we both looked through Casten’s House website. We looked at climate-related bills he had introduced to include in the appreciation, and I typed it out in a Google doc; it only had to be like 30 seconds of speaking, so if you’re offered a role in your first CCL lobby meeting, I would recommend appreciation or maybe time-keeping.

On Tuesday, there was a pre-meeting, the actual meeting, and a post-meeting debrief, all over Zoom. During the actual meeting with Casten, we started with introductions. I was introduced last, because I was doing the appreciation. Then the people who had planned to ask questions asked their questions, and Casten answered them. At the end, the person whose role was to do the secondary ask did the ask, which seems to usually include asking the MOC to support/endorse a bill or policy.

Pros and Cons of the meeting:

Pros: I, a high school student, got to meet and talk with my congressional district Representative in Congress about an issue I think is super important! It’s important to show MOCs that their constituents care about climate change, so the more people that come to lobby meetings, the better. Getting involved like this is how real change is made–by getting the people in charge to implement real climate solutions.

Cons: Casten is very familiar with the energy industry, and some of the stuff he said about “market forces” went right over my head. Some of the CCL volunteers had environmental studies degrees, or had spent their careers in the energy industry, but as a high schooler I could only follow along as best I could (maybe if I did more trainings or listened to more laser talks I would have understood more).

Because of this, the post-meeting debrief was kind of boring and I honestly didn’t pay that much attention, but the liaison said he thought my appreciation was really good and even sent me a follow-up email thanking me for participating. They especially liked that I mentioned that I attend a high school in Casten’s district; I guess high schoolers don’t often participate in the lobby meetings, at least in my district.

So that’s my experience so far! I would definitely recommend getting involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby for a few reasons:

  • You don’t have to be an expert to get involved; you can just be a regular person who cares about climate change.
  • You learn how to advocate for climate legislation through the CCL Community trainings.
  • You get involved in politics in a nonpartisan way.
  • Even if your reps in Congress don’t support the Energy Innovation Act specifically, you can still advocate for climate solutions in general–anything to show that climate change is important to constituents.
  • There are lots of ways to get involved based on your personal interests/skills (probably even more in non-COVID times) and lots of groups/action teams to join.
  • If you’re my age, it’s a great way to show your reps in Congress that Gen Z cares about climate change!

Again, I’ve only been involved for a few months, but if you have any questions, you can comment below this post! Remember to subscribe to the Protecting Planet A blog so you can get emails about my future posts 🙂