Interview with Citizens’ Climate Education

As an advocacy organization, Citizens' Climate Education (CCE) educates policymakers and the public about smart solutions to climate change. Our donation will help them strengthen their nationwide coalition of climate advocates and create a powerful counterweight to paid lobbyists advocating for the fossil fuel industry.

In your own words, what is CCE's mission?

CCE is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that works to advance effective climate solutions in the United States. We empower ordinary people across the country to educate their local communities about climate change and encourage members of Congress to take action.

What's unique about CCE is our relationship-based approach to climate advocacy and commitment to bipartisanship. We really emphasize the importance of establishing a meaningful connection with people and finding common ground so that we can have more productive discussions about climate change. We encourage our volunteers to practice respect, gratitude, and active listening when meeting with members of their community, elected officials, and the media. By focusing on the relationship first, our messages on climate change tend to be well received in spaces that were once resistant.

How did CCE get started?

CCE was founded in 2007 by businessman, activist, and philanthropist Marshall Saunders. Marshall spent over a decade working on global hunger and poverty alleviation efforts as a volunteer with the advocacy group RESULTS and through a microlending program he founded in Mexico called Grameen de la Frontera.

He awoke to the climate crisis in 2006 when he saw the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Seeing that his efforts to address global poverty would be in vain if climate change were left unaddressed, he began giving talks about climate change and the personal choices people could make to reduce their carbon footprint. He started to realize, however, that those personal choices were being dwarfed by the decisions of policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Like many people, Marshall had initially thought that the "people in charge," or the ones who run our government, would handle the problem of climate change. When it became clear that the people in charge were not up to the task, he decided it must be up to regular citizens to reclaim their democracy and engage their members of Congress to take action on climate. As Marshall told CCE volunteers in 2013, "We can't sit around waiting for the cavalry to ride in and save the day — we are the cavalry."

How will the Climate Smart Commitment grant be used to support CCE's work?

The Climate Smart Commitment grant will strengthen CCE's nationwide coalition of climate advocates, helping us expand to all US congressional districts and laying more groundwork for bipartisan climate solutions. Funds will provide climate advocacy training, support, and educational resources to more than 180,000 people across the country. The grant will also help us increase our strategic outreach efforts in targeted parts of the country that need more local folks involved in climate advocacy.

What do you hope to see as the long-term impact of CCE's work?

Scientists tell us we have clear deadlines before facing irreversible damages, outlining that we must cut emissions by 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030. CCE hopes to help meet these standards by advancing effective and equitable legislation that will accelerate the transition to a global clean energy economy. Ultimately, we aim to ensure a healthy and prosperous planet for this generation and generations to come.

What can the average person do to help?

One of the most meaningful things you can do is to communicate with your members of Congress. On our sister organization's website, we have easy action tools to help you call, write, or tweet to your representatives, urging them to support climate change solutions. If you want to go further, you can find your local Citizens' Climate chapter and join!