In mid-September, just prior to the U.S. visit of Pope Francis, a group of 11 U.S. members of Congress introduced a House Resolution that has become known as “The Gibson Resolution“, named after Rep. Chris Gibson of New York who was the driving force behind it. The resolution, H.R. 424, calls upon Congress to begin taking action on global climate change, a sharp departure from the climate change denialism that is so prevalent among Republicans. The key part of H.R. 424 is this:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.
The resolution is largely the result of several years of work by grassroots faith organizations:
Gibson’s resolution is the product of a grass-roots coalition of faith and environmental groups that has been working quietly behind the scenes for two years under the umbrella name Call to Conscience on Climate Disruption (CCCD). The coalition, which included the FCNL [(Friends Committee on National Legislation)], Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), Environmental Defense Action Fund, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby, among others, has been meeting discreetly with moderate House and Senate members of both parties in the hopes of defusing the partisan vitriol that clings to the climate issue and eventually forging policy.
After meeting with a CCCD delegation last September, Gibson agreed to spearhead the effort. Since then, both the congressman and coalition members have been searching for other moderate Republicans to join him — a roster that has only come together in the past few months.
This resolution has gone largely unnoticed by the national media but it represents a sea change among Republicans. Writing at Grist.org, Ben Adler lists four reasons why this is a BFD:
- It signifies a trend toward climate realism in the GOP
- It suggests that Pope Francis’ call for climate action could be making a difference
- It suggests that potential Republican climate leaders can be cultivated
- It suggests some Republicans actually respect science and want to reclaim their party’s abandoned legacy of conservation
However, Adler gives four additional reasons why you should “keep your optimism in check”:
- The 11 GOP reps didn’t commit to or even propose any specific course of action to address climate change
- The cosponsors of the resolution represent just a sliver of the Republican Party
- Climate-denying Republicans still control the House of Representatives
- Some Republicans could use this resolution as a form of greenwashing
Today’s guest post about The Gibson Amendment comes from Ginny Rogers, Group Leader of the Ann Arbor Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.
In the midst of the most recent Republican presidential debate, the Pope’s visit to the United States, and China’s announcement of a cap and trade program to reduce their carbon emissions, a remarkable thing happened which went almost unnoticed by the media. Eleven Republican members of the U.S. House of Representative introduced a resolution which recognizes the impact of climate change and calls on Congress to take action to reduce future risk! HR 424 was introduced on September 17 by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY) and ten co-sponsors. It represents a true breakthrough among Republicans, signaling that they are starting to realize the value of being engaged on climate solutions.
This resolution is the result of “A Call to Conscience on Climate Disruption,” an effort initiated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and demonstrates what is possible when ordinary citizens exercise their own political power. A Call to Conscience was rooted in “the shared moral obligation to present and future generations,” and called for bipartisan recognition of climate disruption by Congress.
Another key player in making this happen is the organization Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). CCL, whose mission is to create the political will for a livable world, was well positioned to collaborate with FCNL. CCL’s methodology is modeled on another successful citizen-based lobbying group called RESULTS, and is organized into local chapters throughout the country. Volunteers in each chapter work to build long-term, helpful and respectful relationships with the U.S. Representative and Senators serving their district. When FCNL asked CCL to join their effort, many CCL volunteers in Republican districts had already established relationships with their members of Congress and were able to begin asking them to co-sponsor a resolution. In New York, CCL volunteers had already been meeting with Representative Chris Gibson for a year. In Florida, CCL volunteers helped to create a coalition of community leaders – chambers of commerce, business owners, mayors and academics – all calling for action on climate change, in order to help persuade Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo to co-sponsor. In Illinois, volunteers met with Representative Bob Dold to gain his support.
The Gibson resolution is one big step towards CCL’s goal of federal legislation to put a price on carbon. CCL advocates for a policy called Carbon Fee and Dividend in which an annually increasing fee is placed on fossil fuels at the point of extraction (well, mine, port of entry) and all of the revenue is returned directly to households, as a monthly dividend. The predictable fee will send a clear market signal, discouraging the use of fossil fuels and encouraging investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, while the dividend will protect households from rising energy costs, with 2/3 of households breaking even or coming out ahead. An economic study by the prestigious modeling firm Regional Economic Models, Inc. found that in ten years, greenhouse gas emissions would decline 33%, real income would increase by more than $500 per person, and 2.1 million jobs would be created, with the lowest economic quintile seeing the largest gains in employment.
So, what does this all mean? With more and more businesses, leaders, scientists and individuals calling for action, the time has never been better for Congress to work together to address this urgent issue.
How can we ensure continued progress? You each have a voice – use it to let your U.S. Representative and Senators know that you expect them to work on real, bipartisan solutions, such as Carbon Fee and Dividend. Call your Republican Representative and urge them to co-sponsor or support the Gibson resolution. Find your nearest chapter of CCL and get involved. You can make a difference!