May 13: let’s flood the halls of Congress for a climate-smart recovery

Photo by Andy Feliciotti/Unsplash

Businesses of all sizes now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to virtually storm Capitol Hill and push climate action into overdrive—and we can’t afford to pass it up.

On May 13, coordinated by LEAD on Climate 2020, business leaders across the U.S. (you could be one) will call on Congress to pass an economic stimulus plan for a climate-smart recovery that includes building resilient infrastructure, investing in the transition to a net-zero emission economy and adopting other long-term climate solutions.

This isn’t about taking focus from immediate efforts to help people and businesses survive the pandemic. It’s about what comes next.

“We’re at a real crossroads moment,” said Climate Collaborative Director Erin Callahan in a rallying call to get sustainable food businesses involved. “The economic stimulus bills [that will be] passed this summer are going to inject trillions of dollars more into the economy. They’re either going to put us on a path toward addressing the climate emergency or derail the movement.”

Join the movement to build back better

Global CO2 and pollutant emissions have dropped dramatically during the pandemic, as blue skies attest, but crisis-driven respites typically are short-lived. As a New York Times analysis points out, “When the pandemic subsides and nations take steps to restart their economies, emissions could easily soar again unless governments make concerted efforts to shift to cleaner energy as part of their recovery efforts.”

That’s why LEAD on Climate 2020, spearheaded by the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, aims to virtually bring the largest-ever group of businesses and investors to Capitol Hill to advocate for big ideas that allow us to “build back better.” According to author and climate activist Bill McKibben, who kicked off the Climate Collaborative call, this isn’t just a job for corporate behemoths.

“Nothing could be more important than having small and medium-sized businesses really go to work. Because they’re the ones who really hold political power,” he said. “Yes, the biggest corporations have a fair amount of power. But every congressperson in America, right now especially, is absolutely gripped by what employers in their districts are doing, what they’re able to do and what trouble they’re up against.

“We know job one is making sure that people survive, that companies survive, that their employees have paychecks. But there is no sense to setting up the pins in the bowling alley once more so that they get knocked over again in the future,” McKibben said, adding that one lesson of the pandemic is “don’t waste time.”

Get training and get heard

Any business can register at the LEAD on Climate site to talk with lawmakers on May 13 about the need to accelerate job-creating clean industries (like energy efficiency retrofitting and renewable power), incentivize action in all sectors of the economy, address the inequities that the COVID-19 crisis has exposed and avoid bailing out polluting industries without firm emission reduction commitments.

Participation is free, and it includes an optional half-day online training May 12 on how to be an effective advocate, plus resources such as talking points and social media kits. On May 13, Ceres will schedule group calls with Congress members and their staffs.

We’ll be there (remotely, like everyone else) and hope to see you. As McKibben pointed out, our representatives get plenty of visits from paid lobbyists, but they hear remarkably little from business leaders in their districts. That means any voice they hear is powerful and “extraordinarily loud.”

Let’s blast their ears open.