International Conference

International Conference

Held in Washington D.C., the Citizens’ Climate International Conference brings together a coalition of volunteers, non-governmental organizations, and the climate community for two days of educational workshops and climate advocacy training. In 2016, the event drew some 1,000 attendees to the nation’s capitol.

Traditionally, the main lobbying day for CCE’s sister organization, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, follows the conference. During Lobby Day, many conference participants put their newly-acquired communication tools to use as they educate congressional offices about climate change solutions.

2016 International Conference

 The 2016 conference opened with a core Climate Advocate Training session, which provided first time conference attendees with strategies for basing communication upon shared values rather than partisan divides. More experienced climate communicators deepened their skills through workshops dedicated to giving in-person presentations on climate solutions, crafting powerful op-eds and letters to the editor, and improving listening skills.

CCE’s commitment to reach out across political lines was perfectly embodied by the panel session How World Views and Morality Shape Climate Change. Comprised of Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, Keya Chatterjee of the US Climate Action Network, Bill Twist of the Pachamama Alliance, and Joan Rosenhauer of Catholic Relief Services, the panel represented the diversity of political, cultural, and ethical justifications for climate action. Panelists recounted climate communication successes and suggested ways of opening communication with their ideological compatriots.

Other presentations and panels on climate policy addressed the complexities of revenue neutrality, border tax adjustments, and global climate action in the months after the landmark United Nations Paris climate agreement, while those on the science of climate change explored oceanic and the interplay between climate and individual weather events. Attendees could choose to deepen their understanding of outreach to faith and labor groups, young voters, and agricultural communities, or of how to recruit strong climate voices in Latino communities across the country. In keeping with CCE’s efforts to build climate coalitions, conference breakouts were led by representatives from organizations including the Audubon Society, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, and Green Latinos.

On the Tuesday following the main conference, CCE trainees descended on Capitol Hill for a full day of bipartisan climate education that included meetings with more than 500 congressional offices. Meeting participants were equipped by training, but also by the dedicated efforts of CCE staff and prior trainees, whose notes and guidance made many meetings the culmination of a years-long process.

The true value of the conference lay in preparing individuals to take on expanded roles as leaders and educators in their home communities. One example of such long-term benefits can be found in the work of Jim Probst, a grandfather who has been living in the mountains of West Virginia for some 30 years. When Jim first became involved in CCE in 2013, there were no active chapters in his home state. Three years later, Jim has helped to start five West Virginia chapters, and has had four meetings with the state’s senators and congressional representatives this year alone. By focusing on a shared commitment to the region’s land and people, he has opened profitable lines of communication with legislators who might ordinarily be reluctant to engage with an organization focused on national climate action.

The 2016 conference closed on an emotional high, with appearances from CSC co-founder Representative Ted Deutch (Dem-Florida) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Rep-Florida, representing Republican CSC co-founder Carlos Curbelo). Representatives Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen spoke movingly about their climate concerns and the joyful passion they sensed in conference attendees. “Our work so far and our plans to make climate solutions a priority in Congress,” Congressman Deutch told trainees, “is wholly dependent on your energy, your passion, and your commitment.”