The American Climate Leadership Summit 2019 (ACLS19) on May 1-2 will feature conversations with prominent climate experts and advocates. This year’s theme is “Breakthrough,” and we’re looking for just that — breakthrough strategies and ideas to help transform the climate action into a true national priority. ecoAmerica offered some of this year’s guest speakers the opportunity to answer climate-related questions, including how they think we can make a breakthrough on climate change in the U.S.
Jason Albritton is the Director of U.S. Climate and Energy Policy at The Nature Conservancy.
What was your climate breakthrough moment?
I was really excited to see the rapid expansion of the House Climate Solutions Caucus in 2018, both in terms of size and activity. With a Republican-held White House, Senate and House of Representatives and headlines focused intensely on Congressional gridlock, most people didn’t realize that over the course of a single calendar year, the House Climate Solutions Caucus expanded from 18 to 90 members, half of which were Republicans. Most people didn’t see that members of the caucus introduced not one, but two different pieces of carbon pricing legislation that if passed, could immediately start reducing production of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. You had 45 Republicans in the House willing to step away from the party line and actually speak up about the need for climate action. And then you had Senators like Tom Tillis and Lisa Murkowski also indicating how important climate action is, in Tillis’s case actually changing his previous position. I’ve always believed we needed bipartisan support to really make climate solutions happen, but last year showed me that it IS possible.
What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?
I wish more people understood that the solutions that address climate change carry us to a future that ALL of us can get excited about, and that it doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. We all benefit from an economy powered by electricity from fuel sources that don’t pollute the air, electricity that is cheaper, and delivered on a safe, flexible, resilient electric grid. We all benefit from more and better managed forests, and from farming that enhances the carbon storage potential of soil. We all benefit when we foster technological innovations that make renewable energy more available and cost-effective, that encourage energy efficiency. So much of the rhetoric about climate change focuses on how much we have to lose, and the big trade-offs we need to make to avoid the worst of the impacts. But we also have a lot of great solutions, and many of the choices that we can make for our future actually open up possibilities and potential for our economy and our quality of life.
What current climate breakthrough or initiatives make you believe we can effectively address climate change?
I’m really inspired by the fact that people are finding more and better ways to talk about climate change to each other, but especially to policymakers. We recently helped a group of shellfish growers, the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition, take their stories about how climate change is affecting them to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. These are producers who make their living from the sea, and a lot of them are either carrying on a family business or are looking to pass it on to their children. They form the backbone of many of the storied seashore communities on the east, west and gulf coasts. And their businesses are deeply impacted by sea level rise, ocean acidification, and the increase in the number and severity of storms. Their voices are particularly important to this conversation because they can speak to the real impacts that are happening right now in our communities, and they are coming to their lawmakers as constituents with a problem that needs solving. Their commitment and their authenticity are very powerful and inspiring.
What do you hope ACLS19 will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?
I’m hoping that attendees will come away from ACLS19 confident that we can do something about climate change, with a better understanding of how many solutions we have available, and how doable those solutions really are. This is not some mysterious problem we don’t know what to do about. Climate change solutions that benefit everyone really exist, right now. I think the more people talk about those solutions, and about how much they have to offer, the faster we can put them into action.
Hear more from Jason Albritton at the American Climate Leadership Summit 2019 in Washington, D.C. on May 1 and 2. Click Here to Register