Students Lobby Dodd and Lieberman for National Climate Legislation
A group of students from Wesleyan, members of the Sierra Club, and the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group met with aides in Senator Chris Dodd’s and Senator Joe Lieberman’s offices on Friday afternoon to lobby for strong national climate legislation. A large rally was originally organized by 350 Wesleyan in Hartford for climate change solutions, but it was postponed due to rain on Friday.
For the past few months, 350 Wesleyan has been working towards the stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions, organizing events such as the scheduled rally and the campus celebration of the International Day of Climate Action, during which Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Dana Royer spoke and students formed a giant “350” for a photograph on Foss Hill.
The group that lobbied in Hartford included about 10 University students who drove to Hartford to meet with Rebecca Kaufman, Press Assistant for Dodd, and Krystyn Ledoux, Congressional Aide for Lieberman. The students pushed for science-based legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and gave both Senators a petition signed by 350 Wesleyan, Environmental Organizers’ Network (EON), the Wesleyan Democrats, Wesleyan Friends of Africa, and other student groups both on campus and across the state.
“We asked three questions at Dodd’s and Lieberman’s offices,” said Dan Fischer ’12, who had been organizing the rally. “One, can we count on the Senator to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide at no more than 350 parts per million? Two, can we count on the Senator to push for climate legislation that is strong and effective as he can possibly make it? Three, can we count on the Senator to put the public interest over the expensive and unsustainable interest of the coal and nuclear industries?”
The aides said that while the Senators were committed to listening to their constituents and to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, they could not make promises concerning all of the group’s questions.
“It’s vague and noncommittal, but that’s the job of an aide,” said Josh Levine ’12, EON Co-Coordinator, who was a part of the lobbying group. “It’s not satisfactory—we’re not going to get the bill that the science requires, but we need a bill. Joe Lieberman is one of the big players in that conversation, and considering that about 50 percent of Americans don’t consider climate change a priority, then Joe Lieberman is the best ally we have.”
Fischer had a slightly more optimistic stance on the conversations.
“I found it promising that both Lieberman and Dodd were willing to listen to their constituents about the enormous need for strong climate legislation,” Fischer said. “It just cements the need for constituent pressure in the weeks to come.”
According to Fischer and Levine, Lieberman is one of the key players in the Senate and one of the most important people in the world in terms of climate legislation since international negotiating parties from 192 countries are watching to see the deal that Lieberman puts together. Lieberman is working with Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to determine what the final climate legislation will look like.
Yesterday, as a follow-up to the lobbying on Friday, Fischer and Levine spoke on the phone to Danielle Rosengarten, Lieberman’s top climate change adviser, about strengthening Senate climate legislation.
“The point of the conversation was partially to express what we wanted and partially for her to better inform our actions in the future,” Levine said.
Fischer said that 350 Wesleyan will decide on its stance on the legislation as soon as it becomes clear. As for putting together another rally, the group is currently consulting with statewide environmental organizations to decide on the best plan of action.
“If Lieberman puts together this deal in the next few weeks, we have to continue to act quickly,” Fischer said.
“It was pretty clear that this bill is not going to be what we need,” Levine added. “But it’s a lot better than nothing.”