CAPA Climate Group Announces 2023 Priorities

We have two priorities with related actions. They Are: First, identify and support major actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and demand that our political leaders put in place effective implementation plans for each of these actions as soon as possible. Second, stop adding more fossil fuels to our oversupply of planet destroying emissions.

1) Major Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

  • The EPA just announced stringent auto and truck pollution limits. These limits are designed to ensure that 67% of new cars and 25% of new heavy trucks sold in the U.S. by 2032 are electric and 54% to 60% by 2030. It is also a major transition from where we are today with 5.8% electric cars and only 2% of trucks in the U.S. These limits are the federal government’s most aggressive climate regulations to date and could propel the the front of the global effort to slash greenhouse gases generated by cars and trucks, a major driver of climate crisis. Nearly every major car company has already invested heavily in electric vehicles, but few have committed to the levels envisioned by the Biden Administration. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act is a key enabler in bringing this initiative to the marketplace.
  • The EPA has also been working for the past two years developing detailed plans to reduce methane emissions. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas and now represents 29% of greenhouse gas. The U.N. Environment Program notes that over a 20-year period, methane emissions are 80 times more potent in causing warming than carbon dioxide. It also notes that these emissions are worsening, with 2020 recording the largest annual increase since 1983. The methane emissions reduction program is now ready for implementation and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will enable the EPA to implement this important program. The primary focus is on the petroleum and natural gas sectors and implementation will begin in May. The Methane Reduction Plan will reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, the equivalent of 920 million metric tons of carbon emissions. The EPA has made a projection of 74% conversion to the new emission standards by 2030. In addition, the EPA has committed to explore other areas where methane emissions can be reduced.
  • There is also an International component of this initiative that started two years ago when the United States and the European Union jointly launched the Global Methane Pledge at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26). The Pledge asked countries to band together and commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. The State Department recently announced that 120 countries have joined this pledge. Since the EPA/IRA Methane Emissions Reduction Program was not developed at that time, we are demanding that President Biden propose a meeting with representatives from the 120 countries who have joined the methane reduction pledge. The EPA can review the key components of their Methane Emissions Reduction Program and the President can make a commitment to provide assistance to enable other countries to implement a similar program.

    The Biden Administration is keenly aware that climate activists are angry over their recent decision to approve The Willow Project, an enormous oil drilling project on federal land in Alaska. Some inside the administration argue that speeding up the transition to renewable energy, would lessen the demand for oil drilled in Alaska or elsewhere. CAPA realizes that we must demand our elected representatives introduce essential legislation like ‘The Earth Bill’’ instead of weaker alternative proposals. We also demand that President Biden declare a “Climate Emergency”.

    2) Stop adding more fossil fuels to our oversupply of planet destroying emissions.

  • We will continue to stop the legislative approval of the Mountain Valley Project or what is better known as “Manchin’s Dirty Deal”. So far, we have blocked the approval of this project three times. During the approval process for the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Chuck Schumer agreed to a deal that would enable the Mountain Valley Project to get approved by step siding some local regulations in exchange for Manchin’s approval of the vote on the IRA. This project, if completed, will emit the equivalent of 25 operating coal plants into the atmosphere. When environmental groups recognized this, 600 environmental organizations across the country, including CAPA, called their House and Senate representatives demanding that they reject this Dirty Deal. We will continue to update you as new versions are introduced, so we can act again to reject them.
  • Stop the “Willow Project”. This will be the largest oil drilling project in the U.S. to date. This project will produce an estimated 254 million metric tons of climate-busting carbon over 30 years. The plan was initially approved by the Trump Administration but was halted in 2021 by an Alaskan judge because “Environmental impacts were not fully addressed.” In March of 2023 President Biden gave final approval to this project, an unacceptable departure by Biden from the promises he has made to the American people and to the environmental justice communities. Six environmental organizations subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration. The law suit alleges that the Biden Administration approved the project knowing the harm posed to Arctic communities, wildlife and the climate arguing that the project will spew toxic emissions and GHG pollution and undermine Biden’s promises to the American people. This suit was filed by Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, Environmental America, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Society. CAPA will follow this law suit closely and will support this litigation however possible.
  • CAPA has joined a national campaign to stop Wall Street Banks from financing climate destruction pipelines or refineries. Since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, the large U.S. banks have provided $1.4 trillion to the fossil fuel industry. Currently, two national action movements are protesting the four largest banks funding fossil fuel projects. CAPA joined ‘Stop the Money Pipelines’ and have organized protests at these banks: J.P. Morgan Chase, Citi Bank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. A second national campaign against these banks was recently established by Bill McKibben, founder of, is also focusing on these banks. The group called “Third Act”, focusing on customers over 60 who have their money in these local branch offices. These banks are funding major pipeline projects for the fossil fuel industry to transport either dirty oil from Alberta, Canada, liquified gas or CO2 captured carbon to locations all across the U.S. We must do everything we can to stop these climate destructive projects that are built to last 30 plus years. We will inform you about our next protests.
  • House Republicans passed a sprawling energy bill on March 31st. The bill, “The Low Energy Cost Act”, aims to undermine and revise Biden’s climate policies. The energy package would sharply increase production of oil, natural gas, coal, and offshore drilling. It would also ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries and other projects by bypassing local community and state regulations. This legislation will not pass the Democratic controlled Senate. However, Kevin McCarthy and the extreme Republican House members want to use this legislation now to force Mr. Biden to negotiate over raising the debt limit. This is the type of toxic climate legislation we can expect, if we do not elect pro-environment representatives in 2024 to enable the country to achieve the aggressive climate legislation, we need to reach a clean and sustainable future.

We are now in the process of setting up meetings with our elected House and Senate representatives, establishing coalitions with other like-minded organizations, drafting letters to key political decision makers and encouraging our members to join in these efforts. We will also be participating in demonstrations both locally and in Washington D.C.




Last year effectively tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, U.S. and European climate researchers recently announced, as global temperatures continued their relentless rise brought on by the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. These record warm temperatures fueled deadly heat waves, droughts, intense wildfires and other environmental disasters here in the United States and around the world. This occurred last year despite the development in the second half of the year of La Niña, a global climate phenomenon marked by surface cooling across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. According to the European Union report, the global average temperature in 2020 wasabout 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit (1.25 degrees Celsius) warmer than the preindustrial average. 

Scientists Warn us to Take Urgent Action as Planet Warms at an Alarming Rate

Two years ago the climate scientists warned us in a Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rate, the atmosphere will warm by up to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) by 2040, resulting in catastrophic impacts like inundated coastlines causing massive population relocations, intensified droughts that worsen food shortages, and mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040. Unfortunately, global emissions have continued unabated, rising at 1.4% per year for the past several years. Now, according to a 2019 UN Emissions Gap Report we must reduce global emissions by 7.6 percent per year for the next ten years. In the 2018 IPCC Report, scientists concluded that leaders must reduce global emissions to net-zero emissions by 2050 to stand any chanceof avoiding the most severe impacts of this climate crisis. They also concluded that even faster reductions in global emission to reach net-zero emissions in 2040 would result in a higher probability of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius than reaching that target in 2050.

In the weeks and months ahead, we have our best opportunity for significant progress in controlling the climate crisis. President-elect Biden has selected key cabinet and staff people who have an established records in working on the transition to renewable sources of energy. During his campaign, Biden proposed a strong climate plan; we support its focus on transportation, electricity, building efficiency, creation of millions of good paying jobs, and its prioritization of climate justice. But it will not get us to the aggressive emission reduction targets above in time to avoid catastrophic impacts. Our purpose is not to critique the plan but to recommend six additional actions to enhance the plans’ ability to meet the aggressive timelines required to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of people across the planet.

Our Recommendations for Biden’s Climate Action Plan are as follows:

Accelerate the Timeline:  During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to ensure that the U.S. achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Within its first 100 days, the Biden Administration must create an ambitious national climate action plan that achieves the net-zero emissions goal as fast as possible, and ideally by 2040 to reduce the probability of catastrophic climate change. 

Support Carbon Fee and Dividend: As a single action, placing a fee on carbon at its source and returning the funds to families on a monthly basis as in the congressional bill “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act”, HR 763, would have the most efficient impact in decreasing fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

Stop Subsidizing Fossil Fuels: The Federal Government must remove subsidies from the fossil fuel industries. The most conservative estimate in direct subsidies is $20 billion annually, but this does not include discounted cost for fossil fuel extraction on federal lands or indirect tax breaks. These funds need to be itemized and diverted to support the implementation of the National Climate Plan and the new solar and wind infrastructure needed in all 50 states. During his campaign, Biden pledged to work with G20 countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and to lead by example at home by cutting U.S. fossil fuel subsides in his first year and to re-direct those resources to invest in clean energy. We strongly support this pledge and urge the President to include it in his Climate Action Plan.

Incentivize the Power Sector to Transition to Renewable Energy: Reducing and eliminating coal burning power plants is among the most impactful actions the Biden Administration can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the recent past, we have idled 145 coal burning units. As a result, coal burning emissions are down from 31% in 2017 to 20% today.  There are plans to idle another 71 coal units within the next two years. But, as utility companies close down these coal units, they are replacing the majority with gas-fired stations with operating-life expectancies of 30 to 40 years. The Biden team must work with Congress to incentivize utility companies to replace coal with renewable energy, rather than continuing to rely on polluting fossil fuels, like natural gas, which contributes to climate change. Biden can do this by taking immediate action to implement his campaign pledge to reform and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy and establish a clean energy standard for utilities and grid operators.

Eliminate any Non-essential Plastics: Eleven million tons of petroleum resourced plastics enter the oceans each year (the equivalent of dumping a full garbage truck of plastic in the ocean every minute of every day for one year). This figure is predicted to triple over the next 20 years. Tiny plastic particles are now pervasive in the air we breathe and in our waterways. They account for 4.2 million premature deaths globally each year. The fossil fuel industry is increasing plastic production to offset the loss of revenues they are experiencing. Uncontrolled plastic contamination and pollution is a violation of both the Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act and the EPA has ignored this serious issue for the past four years. Today, nearly 8% of annual global oil consumption is associated with plastics, according to the World Economic Forum. If this reliance on plastics persists, plastics will account for 20% of all oil consumption by 2050. (Brooke Bauman, How Plastics Contribute to Climate Change,).

Declare a Climate Emergency: This would allow the President to work directly with organizations and corporations with specific expertise to quickly develop technologies and capabilities not presently available to more readily transition to renewable energy. The following are specific areas of need:

  • Home Heating. Presently 90% plus of private homes or apartments are heated by either natural gas or oil. We need a reliable carbon free alternative like electric heating pumps that can easily be installed on boilers and hot water tanks and enable utility companies to replace fossil fuel service to many qualifying customers.
  • Carbon Capture Capability. Present carbon capture capabilities proposed by the petroleum industry will not reduce carbon emissions. Oil companies propose transporting captured carbon back to drilling locations to produce more natural gas or oil. This proposed process will only produce more methane or carbon emissions.  We must not divert scarce financial resources to support this misguided approach. We need a major initiative to explore natural carbon capture such as regenerative farming methods and enhanced development of our natural resources.
  • Fast Rail, Air travel and Large Trucks. The U.S. is behind other industrial countries in fast rail options. Large truck transport is a major source of CO2 emissions and subsidies should be available for further development and production of electric truck transport. During his campaign, Biden committed to ensure that the U.S. “has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world – for both passengers and freight.” We urge President Biden to include in his Climate Action Plan immediate actions to achieve this goal. Also, incentives should be available for further research and development of the use of electric energy for air transport, which is showing some feasibility.
  • Military Impact on Carbon Emissions. The U.S. military is the largest single user of petroleum products, with over 900 bases and a vast amount of heavy equipment. To their credit they have worked on reducing their carbon emissions but an independent commission must review what is needed and make recommendations to achieve substantially more emissions reductions, including downsizing.


Every year we are still pumping 40 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere globally. Climate scientists now give us ten years to make significant progress in reducing carbon emissions and until mid-century or sooner to reach net-zero carbon emissions to avoid unstoppable catastrophic impacts. These six recommendations would strengthen Biden’s climate plan to help achieve these goals. The Biden team and our Illinois congressional representatives must lead by improving public education on climate science, emphasizing the urgent need for action by all levels of government, companies and citizens to respond to this climate crisis.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the November Climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, has already increased the UK commitment to reducing climate emissions by 69% by 2030.  His plan and leadership are based on science and on the understanding of urgency needed to change the emission commitments made by governments and corporations. 

Local environmental and climate working groups must meet with our bipartisan lawmakers from Illinois to stress the urgent need for climate legislation to protect communities in the U.S. and around world and our planet from ruin. There will be no vaccine to protect us when the global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius and threaten lives, livelihoods and ecosystems around the globe.

Written and Submitted by:

Jack Kelly, co-chair of the CAPA Climate Group
Catherine Buntin, co-chair of the CAPA Climate Group

The Climate Crisis: A Plea and a Path Forward

An Open Letter to Governor J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Lawmakers

See it published by The Chicago Tribune

A growing number of states are adopting sweeping new climate legislation that will result in eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by or before 2050. These states are California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington and New York. Political leaders in these states realize that because of the devastating impacts of climate change they must transform their entire economies to pollution-free renewable energy as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately, Illinois lags behind with only 8% of our electric energy coming from renewable sources and a goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025. As our new Governor, we know you understand that this is a major shortfall in prior political leadership in Illinois. The most recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Special Report states that we have just 10 years to reduce our carbon emissions by 45% to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global climate change. Recently, climate scien- tists announced that we must reduce our global carbon emissions by 7.6% every year for the next ten years to achieve the necessary reduced emissions targets. 

Given the magnitude of the problem, piecemeal efforts will not achieve the critical goals. We therefore ask for your leadership in developing an ambitious, holistic, and comprehensive plan for Illinois to reduce our carbon emissions while transitioning to renewable energy. 

The following summarizes the key components of such a holistic plan: 

Pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). This legislation will put Illinois on a path to electrifying the transportation sector, reducing our energy consumption, and will be an important first step in enabling our state to be powered with 100% renewable energy by 2050. It will also create thousands of new, well-paying jobs, particularly in disadvantaged communities. With your help, this legislation must be passed in this session of the legislature. We now have an added incentive to do so as a result of President Trump’s recent decision to increase renewable energy pricing on the Federal grid and provide a financial bailout to fossil fuels. As you know, CEJA contains a provision that allows Illinois to establish its own grid; this will enable Illinois to bypass these punitive price increases on renewable energy and nuclear power. 

Stop all further development of oil/gas pipelines in Illinois. Energy Transfer Partners has recently requested that the Illinois Commerce Commission, ICC, approve two new pumping stations that would allow double the volume of oil transported through existing pipelines. This means more risk of spills across Illinois land and waterways while promoting the sale of more fossil fuels that must be kept in the ground. We need policy to make clear that Illinois is not supportive of any further fossil fuel development. 

Divest fossil fuel holdings from our Illinois State Pension Plans. asserts that it is “a moral imperative” to divest from the dirty energy that is significantly degrading the climate, and to reinvest in climate solutions. Further, fossil fuel divestment is good investment strategy. Funds will benefit by switching from assets that will inevitably remain locked underground for new, state-of-the-art industries and technologies. 

De-carbonize using Illinois natural resources. We can ensure funding for our struggling forest preserves in Illinois which represent significant carbon sinks. According to the 2018 Illinois Forest Action Plan, Illinois forests sequester 343 million tons of carbon. Here in Cook County alone, we have 356 locations totaling 70 thousand acres of forest and wetland preserves that play an important role in decarbonization. And there are 16 such county preserves in Illinois. Investments in regenerative farming to ensure we take advantage of our vast agriculture acreage in Illinois is a great opportunity for us. The 2018 IPCC report states that our natural resources well managed can sequester 15 to 20% of our annual emissions. 

Establish a timetable to transition Illinois off nuclear power. We presently have 11 nuclear reactors operating in Illinois providing 52% of our electric energy. These reactors initially had a 40-year life expectancy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, increased that life expectancy by 20 years. Half of these reactors are now in the expanded life expectancy stage. Maintenance costs continue to increase every year — a major reason why nuclear power is no longer cost competitive with renewable sources of energy. These aging reactors have also become more prone to serious failures as they get older, while at the same time they create more nuclear waste. The cost to replace these reactors is exorbitant (about $10 billion each) and it requires 12 to 15 years to bring one to market. Existing nuclear plants will of necessity be used to provide energy as we increase the renewable energy infrastructure. But we should not spend one more public dollar to maintain these plants for Exelon. The public deserves a logical timetable to phase them out one by one as they become less safe and as we have the renewable sources made available for Illinois. 

Pass the referendum for a Fair Tax in 2020. We are grateful for your leadership on moving the Fair Tax initiative and strongly support you in making this a top priority for Illinois. It takes substantial financial resources to implement and sustain a comprehensive renewable energy strategy. Passage of this Fair Tax Initiative will bring $3.4 billion dollars annually to Illinois, which will help fund our energy transformation. 

These collective actions would accelerate our transition to renewable sources of energy and reduce our annual emissions sooner rather than later. Piecemeal actions will not protect current and future generations from an increasingly storm-ridden, flood-and fire-prone world. With political will, Illinois can become a leader in addressing our climate crisis, a model for other states, and demonstrate accountable governing. We are all in this together, and look forward to working with you to make it happen. Thank you for your leadership. 


Climate Update: The Opposition We Face and Recommendations on The Path Forward

CAPA Climate Logo long

Last year the growing impacts of climate change hit the United States hard. Wildfires scorched California and storms pounded the East Coast. The South saw record heat and the Midwest unprecedented flooding.

2019 was the second warmest year on record and the last five years were the warmest five years ever recorded.

2020 is starting off even worse particularly for Australia. Australians are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophic. Wild fires have already scorched nineteen million acres, killed over one billion of their native animals, destroyed over 5,000 homes and killed 30 people.

This should be the moment when governments finally begin urgent efforts to stave off the climate crisis. Unfortunately, that is not the rational response we are getting. In fact, the Australian anti-environmental government seems utterly unmoved, as environmental nightmares become reality.

In the United States we are seeing a similar reality. Instead of President Trump declaring a global climate emergency and calling on Congress to work together to establish an effective national climate strategy to address this crisis, he has continued his destructive actions to weaken our environment regulations. In the past 90 days there are three more shameful examples of these actions:  

  • On November 4th 2019, President Trump notified the international community that the United States will officially withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. This move will leave the country that is world’s second largest overall emitter of greenhouse gasses abandoning global efforts to combat climate change instead of taking a leadership role to address this global climate crisis.
  • On January 9th 2020, President Trump announced his most brazen action yet to reduce environmental regulations on clean air, water and the environment by revising the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revisions to this landmark legislation will impact nearly every major project that receives federal funding: pipelines, power plants, bridges and highways. The new rules would narrow the range of projects that require assessment and impose strict, new and shorter deadlines for completing these studies.

It is important to recall why this legislation was signed into law just over 50 years ago. Demands for greater oversight occurred when an oil tanker spilled three million gallons of crude oil off the coast of Santa Barbara California in 1969. We do not want to turn back the clock to pre-Santa Barbara.

  • On New Year’s eve, December 31st 2019 (a day when few people followed the news), President Trump directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to introduce place a new rule that will require renewable energy (solar, wind) and nuclear power to be priced higher in the wholesale electricity market and to be removed from the grid.  This decision will ensure that highly polluting energy sources such as coal and natural gas that can bid at a lower price will replace carbon free energy.

This decision will undermine state initiatives to increase renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind as well as nuclear power.  It will also result in a consumer rate increase of $2.4 billion dollars per year nationally and cost the utility customers of Illinois a 60% increase in their utility rates.

These actions to weaken environmental regulations, divert accessibility of renewables, and increase pricing on clean renewable energy are just the latest in nearly 100 environmental rollbacks that Trump has announced in the past three years. Some of these include weakening protection for endangered species, lowering limits on the release of the highly potent methane greenhouse gas, loosening offshore drilling safety rules and canceling the automobile emissions standards that were put in place by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, there are many others.

Let’s be honest, prospects for a clean energy future are not looking good currently. However, giving up is not an option. So, what must we do?  We must find a path forward. 

The Path Forward

As environmentally concerned citizens, we cannot realistically expect to meet the United Nations IPCC targets to reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 45% by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change as long as Donald Trump is president.  In November, we must elect a president who is a national and global champion of the environment to address this climate crisis. We must do whatever we can to achieve this objective.

  • While Trump has introduced over one hundred actions that would weaken our environmental regulations, it is important to note that 70 of these actions have been challenged with lawsuits in the courts. So far, the Trump Administration has won only four of them. 
    We fully expect a court challenge on Trump’s announcement to weaken regulations on the National Environmental Policy.  We must provide financial assistance whenever possible to the organizations or state agencies that are establishing these lawsuits. Some of these organizations include: Earth Justice, The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
  • We have some good news for the people of Illinois on the Trump Administration’s decision to remove renewable energy and nuclear power from the federal grid and by so doing significantly increase renewable energy and nuclear power pricing. We expect the Legislature in Springfield to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act in the first quarter of this year. It contains a provision that allows Illinois to establish its own energy grid that will be run by the Illinois IPA. We will no longer be using the federal energy grid and will not be subject to the punitive price increases imposed by Trump on renewable energy and nuclear power.  We will not be increasing our energy costs by 60%. We will be reviewing plans to pass this legislation with our elected representatives in the weeks ahead.
  • We must continue to stay engaged in monitoring the actions of our national political leaders on environmental actions. We must encourage the development and support of a comprehensive national environmental strategy like “The Green New Deal”.

We also need to challenge our political leaders when they have failed to stand up to the bullying tactics of President Trump, Mitch McConnell and Senator Inhofe who recently rejected the efforts of democratic leaders to include two significant renewable energy initiatives in the National Budget/ Defense Authorization Act for 2020.

  • Our primary focus during the coming months will be to get a comprehensive energy strategy passed in Springfield Illinois. We must then work to implement this strategy in the North Suburban communities of Chicago. We have outlined the details of this holistic state environmental strategy in the attached open letter to Governor Pritzker. We will give you more detailed information on how we can all work together in the weeks ahead to make Illinois one of the leading states in making the transformation to clean renewable energy.
  • Lawrence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of Black Rock, a $7 trillion investment firm, recently stated that his firm would make investment decisions solely with environmental sustainability as a core goal. In our divestment discussions with large financial banks, such as J. P. Morgan Chase, we will emphasize this important directive from Mr. Fink, as we encourage Chase and other financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

If you are interested in becoming more active in working with the CAPA Climate Group on these issues please email Catherine Buntin ( or Jack Kelly ( Thank you.     

CAPA Climate Group
Catherine Buntin and Jack Kelly

Join the Fight for a Green New Deal!

By: Jacopo De Marinis, CAPA Climate Fellow, Summer 2019

You might have heard about the 2018 report on climate change released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It found that, if we do not keep warming of global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees celsius above pre industrial temperatures, the worst effects of climate change will not be averted. This will cause a massive loss of human life, severely damage the biodiversity of our ecosystems, and damage vital economic infrastructure, costing the United States and other countries trillions of dollars annually.

These disastrous events induced by climate change will spark humanitarian disasters, forcing the dislocation of millions who will live in constant fear of the next climatic disaster. Undoubtedly, the upheaval caused by the impending climate crisis will generate immense social and political unrest as existing patterns of social and economic inequality are exacerbated by the devastating environmental changes that will grip the world. This future will soon be irreversible. 

But we must not lose hope. 

In February of 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution, an idea, that has the power to change everything. An idea that would even the playing field for millions of people by enhancing economic and social equality while ensuring that Earth will still sustain life for our children and grandchildren. An idea that would strengthen democracy and freedom for all citizens of the United States, no long held down by the wealthy elite and corrupt politicians. An idea that is exactly what we need: a Green New Deal (GND). And yes, it is a bold vision of a better world. Bold, but not unrealizable… 

The GND consists of three parts: 1) Ending the United States’ economy’s reliance on fossil fuel based energy sources, 2) transitioning to a renewable energy source based economy by 2050, and 3) using this transformational shift as an opportunity to enhance social and economic equality for everyone, especially the poor, people of color, and indigenous communities to ensure a just transition, led by those most affected. It is a bold vision, but many citizens of the United States have already stepped to spearhead the fight, including me. 

In Summer 2019, I participated in an advocacy internship program organized by Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA). CAPA’s main goals are centered on foreign policy (such as ending the endless wars in the Middle East and throughout the world) and climate justice. This particular summer, the CAPA climate justice team was focused on promoting the GND. We, like many, were alarmed by the doomsday predictions put forth by the IPCC and were determined to do something about it. 

So, we drafted a letter to the Illinois Congressional Delegation urging our representatives to support the GND. And, to illustrate the strong societal support behind the GND, we started building a coalition of concerned organizations that had a stake in the GND. These organizations ranged from places of faith to refugee organizations to environmental advocacy groups… a diverse group reflective of the intersectional nature of this progressive, transformative initiative. 

While we recruited the majority of these organizations via computer, building a coalition for what might turn out to be the most significant push for a long-awaited change wasn’t as easy as just pushing a button and hoping for a signature; it required active campaigning. We went to networking events, attended by business owners, climate scientists, politicians, and social activists, always with a petition in hand, urging congressional leaders like Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi and Representative Sean Casten to cosponsor the GND. We made constituents aware of their representatives’ lack of support of the GND at town hall meetings, growing more knowledgeable about the urgent need for a GND. We met with experts and coalitions working for the same goal, and as a united front, attended forums on climate change. Leaders like Tom Skilling and Dick Durbin were there, but their support was still omitted for the comprehensive Green New Deal resolution. 

I would say that the most exciting event was a forum for Economic Development held in a local pizzeria. Aside from eating amazing Italian food, I was excited to get Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner for District 12 Bridget Degnen’s signatures in support of the Green New Deal! 

But it wasn’t easy. Some politicians, yes, even Democrats, were reluctant to lend their support to the GND due to concerns about the cost, as well as hesitancy to support such a “radical” resolution. And telling them that we DO have the money to finance a GND (after diverting some funds currently flowing into the pockets of defense contractors and the US’s oversized war machine) didn’t seem to make much a difference. One politician, Rodney Davis, representative of Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, still hasn’t responded to me about setting up a meeting, even with my having repeatedly contacted his office. 

Despite some disappointments, our perseverance bore fruit; we successfully compiled a list of 50 progressive organizations eager to sign onto our coalition letter which we will present to our Illinois Congressional Delegation. 

But there is still much to be done. 

The urgency of the problem is apparent in Greta Thunberg’s voice as she begs world leaders at the past UN Conference on Climate Change to treat the impending climate crisis as it is: a catastrophe. The world admires her boldness and courage for several days, and then it’s back to business as usual. While her determination helps motivate protests for environmental reform, nobody realizes how important it is that we all fight as Greta Thunberg is for environmental justice. She cannot bear the burden of saving the planet alone, and we all must find that inner courage to sacrifice for the common good as Greta has. 

All of us must take an active stance to force radical, but vital, climate reform, in any way possible. I believe that the GND is one of the best proposals yet put forth to combat climate change as its comprehensive goals tackle the underlying cause of climate change: the divisive, profit driven nature of the current economic system that has left so many behind. But in any way we choose to fight, we must fight like our lives depend on it. Because they do.