Pelicans Lobby Congressional Aides for Climate Action

In their continued efforts to sound the alarm about global warming, several members of the Loomis Chaffee Climate Action group spoke recently with congressional aides to lobby for legislation that would reduce carbon emissions through a fee and dividend exchange program.

In the series of five video conferences in November with legislative aides for Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Jahana Haynes, the Climate Action students lobbied for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would place a regularly escalating fee on greenhouse gas emissions and return the proceeds as a monthly dividend to citizens, according to Science Department Head Neil Chaudhary ’05, who is an advisory member of the Climate Action group.

The virtual lobbying sessions continued a collaboration that the group began in the fall of 2019 with the Greater Hartford Chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots advocacy organization focused on natural policies to address climate change.

The Loomis student group and the local lobby organization have been working together since summer 2020 to urge lawmakers to bring the carbon fee and dividend bill to a vote in Congress. According to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, studies show that in 20 years, this system could reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while adding 2.1 million jobs to the American economy.

Student leaders of the Climate Action group and of sustainability programs at Loomis hosted a lobbying workshop in October focused on climate action and the pursuit of environmental sustainability. The November lobbying sessions provided an opportunity to put into practice the skills covered in the workshop.

“Typically lobbying takes place in person in Washington, D.C.,” Neil said and explained that the COVID-19 pandemic created a unique opportunity for students to have access to lawmakers without having to travel. The video conferencing enabled the students to speak directly with the people who have influence and the power to bring change. This opportunity, and the regular meetings with members of the lobby organization, happened because of the conditions caused by the pandemic, he said. 

Junior Tallula Johansen, an active member of the Loomis climate action group, took part in two of the meetings. One was with Sarah Shapiro, Sen. Murphy’s energy aide for the Washington, D.C., office, and Briana DeVivo, an in-state aide to Sen. Murphy in Hartford. The other meeting was with Alex Katz, a staff member of Representative Barbara Lee.

“I learned that the research and preparation components of lobby meetings are incredibly important,” Tallula wrote in an email, adding that part of the learning experience was preparing to interact with people who may not agree with her position.

“The lobby meetings were incredibly informative and inspiring, and I plan to continue bringing these opportunities to climate activists on campus,” Talllula wrote. Students who took part in the lobbying sessions included seniors Lily Bahrehmand and Walker Craig; juniors Meghan Hall, Isabella Jiang, Camryn Kaleugher, Jordan Korn, Karishma Lawrence, Khushi Mahajan, and Tallula; and sophomores Madison Hua, Dora Lin, Mattie McCann, and Jane Smagulova. Eric LaForest, Keller Family Director of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good and Neil joined two of the meetings.

Connect to the Alvord Center for Global and Environmental Studies and the Norton Family Center for the Common Good for more about about environmental stewardship programs at Loomis Chaffee.