Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is an environmentalist advocacy organization that pushes for legislation to curtail carbon emissions, with an emphasis on carbon taxes. It advances legislation to impose a carbon tax with redistribution to the populace.
Founded on October 6, 2007, CCL created 560 chapters throughout the world, with chapters on every continent. 1 Through presentations and meetings with Doug Harr of Audubon Iowa, CCL has pushed for increased advocacy support from the National Audubon Society with 15 of its 450 chapters endorsing CCL-backed environmentalist legislation. 2
The organization endorses the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus (founded in 2019 by Senator Michael Braun (R-IN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)) and House Climate Solutions Caucus (founded in 2016 by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and now-former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)). 3 While CCL touts its cross-partisanship, critics note that its employees have given extensively to Democratic candidates and committees and that CCL partners with more radical environmentalist groups like 350.org through the U.S. Climate Action Network. 4
CCL maintains a sister educational arm, Citizens’ Climate Education (CCE). 5
Citizens Climate Lobby is based in Coronado, California, and has over 50 staffers.6 It works to promote a carbon tax scheme. Among the staffers include regional coordinators and lobbyists, among other positions.
The centerpiece of CCL’s mission is promoting a carbon tax. Its approach is called a “carbon fee and dividend.” The proposal claims to collect a tax on carbon emissions and give 100% of the revenue back to citizens. The “dividend” would be distributed as income tax rebates.7
According to its 2015 Form 990, it raised $309,135 and spent $164,670. CCL’s largest single expenditure was $144,099 to hold its annual conference in Washington, D.C.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s founder and treasurer Marshall Saunders is a former real estate broker. 8 He claims to have begun his interest in environmental activism after seeing Al Gore’s environmentalist propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth and to have founded CCL after a series of workshops at a retirement home in 2006. The group began to lobby on the idea of carbon taxes (which it called “fees and tariffs”).
CCL further lobbied for state governments’ powers to impose stricter motor vehicle emission standards than are federally required, as well as more stringent energy efficiency in building codes. Saunders later joined with longtime climate activist Tom Stokes. Stokes founded environmentalist group “Environment!” in 1969, and in 2013, became the founding director of Pricing Carbon Initiative. At the time he introduced Saunders to the idea of the carbon tax legislation which has become the prime target for CCL, he was working with Climate Crisis Coalition to make climate change concerns synonymous in the public mind with left-of-center social and economic policy positions. When asked if he saw a drawback to the imposition of a fee on carbon emissions, Saunders responded
No, I really do not. I do not think anybody does, except it is going to eventually put the carbon-producing companies out of business. If we can get a bill that causes that tax to go up by $10 every year, it is going to be uneconomic to bring coal, gas, and oil out of the ground. 9 10
In 2009, CCL held its first annual conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together activists and advocates from all over the country and the world. CCL’s first international chapter was formed in 2011 in Canada.
CCL’s primary aim is the global implementation of carbon taxes as an indirect means to reduce emissions. Along with 16 other Democratic members of Congress, Representative John Larson (D-CT) introduced his first version of a carbon tax bill on November 1, 2017. 11 CCL endorsed this legislation, but criticized the fact that unlike CCL’s proposed “carbon fee and dividend” structure, not all of the revenue was not earmarked to be redistributed to the public. It also expressed concern that the act did not take enough into consideration the economic impact on low-income families. 12
CCL’s primary vehicle to impose carbon a tax in America is the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act” (H.R. 763), introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). This legislation proposes a carbon tax on fossil fuels as well as a carbon tariff on imported goods. It claims to be “revenue neutral” as the proposed monies will be redistributed among the populace through a dividend, based on a price-per-individual basis. 13
During the push to implement a nationwide carbon tax in Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada Director Cathy Orlando boasted that CCL had “held more than 200 meetings, including 100 one-on-one meetings with members of Parliament… Our members also had over 700 editorials and letters to the editor published last year (2017) alone.” 14 As of August 2019, CCL has more than 50 chapters throughout Canada. 15
CCL has called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon pricing too lenient, and suggested an increase in carbon taxes beyond the year 2022, as well as further taxes on other gases such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide. It also wants to end Canada’s subsidies to fossil industries that have been used to offset the imposition of the carbon taxes. 16
CCL pushes for its program through various means. The group organizes local chapters which work to build support for a carbon tax by writing letters to the editor and holding regional conferences. The chapters also occasionally travel to Washington to meet with members of Congress.17
The group also publishes op-eds in major newspapers to support its views. It also provides tools on its website to contact members of Congress through their offices or on social media.
CCL hosts an annual conference in Washington, D.C. where it brings together supporters with members of Congress and their staffs. It presents climate change information and put together workshops to help its members communicate their views better with the general public. It has developed economic studies in support of its climate tax proposal.
It is a supporter of the cross-party Climate Solutions Caucus in Congress. But the caucus has come under fire from the left for not taking an extremist position against conventional energy use and the membership of Republicans who have not supported environmental-left legislation in the past. 18
CCL’s advisory board includes actors Don Cheadle and Bradley Whitford, RESULTS founder Sam Daley-Harris, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, far-left environmentalist climate scientist James Hansen, former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis, and former Republican Cabinet Secretary and advisor to the Niskanen Center George P. Shultz. 19
It also has a governing board with Ross Astoria as its chairman, George Hetzel as its secretary and treasurer, and organization founder Marshall Saunders. 20
Its staffers are donors to left-wing politicians. In the 2018 election cycle alone, CCL staffers have donated to the reelection campaigns of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR), the Idaho and Kansas Democratic Parties, the Democratic PAC vendor ActBlue, and other campaigns. They have not donated to any Republicans. 21
Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and is not required by the IRS to disclose its donors. Only one donor to CCL is known: the Hopewell Fund, which granted it $15,000 in 2017. 22 The Hopewell Fund is part of a major “dark money” nonprofit network managed by the Washington, DC-based consultancy Arabella Advisors.
Between 2019 and 2020, the CCL received $600,000 in grant money from the left-leaning LLC Arnold Ventures. 23
- Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “Chapters.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. Undated. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/chapters/
- McCoy, Jamie and Tucker, Matt. “CCL and Audubon Collaborate for Climate Action.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. December 6, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/ccl-audubon-collaborate-climate-birds/
- Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “Climate Solutions Caucus.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. Undated. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/climate-solutions-caucus/
- Lauer, Daniel, and Hayden Ludwig. “The Myth of the Conservative Carbon Tax: A Who’s Who of the EcoRight.” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, October 12, 2018. https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-myth-of-the-conservative-carbon-tax-part-4/.
- Citizen’s Climate Education. “The Citizens’ Climate Partnership.” Citizen’s Climate Education Website. Undated. Accessed December 24, 2019. https://citizensclimateeducation.org/
- “The Staff Of Citizens’ Climate Lobby”. 2018. Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Accessed July 9. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/team/.
- Nuccitelli, Dana. 2013. “Citizens Climate Lobby Pushes For A Carbon Tax And Dividend”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/jun/18/climate-change-citizens-climate-lobby-carbon-tax.
- Saunders, Marshall. “Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s Founder.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. Undated. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/citizens-climate-lobbys-founder/
- Saunders, Marshall. “History and Hope from CCL’s Founder.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. July 12, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/history-hope-ccl-founder/
- Pricing Carbon Initiative. “The Team.” PCI Website. Undated. Accessed January 16, 2020. http://www.pricingcarbon.org/the-team/
- Larson.House.Gov. “The America Wins Act.” Larson.House.Gov Website. Undated. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://larson.house.gov/issues/america-wins-act
- Winchester, Flannery. “Rep. John Larson & 16 House Democrats Introduce Carbon Pricing Bill.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. November 17, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2019. thttps://citizensclimatelobby.org/rep-john-larson-16-house-democrats-introduce-carbon-pricing-bill/
- Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. Undated. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act/
- Gable, Mary. “With CCL ’s Help, Canada Progresses Toward a National Carbon Price.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. October 18, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/with-ccls-help-canada-progresses-toward-a-national-carbon-price/
- “About CCL Canada: Chapters.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Canada Website. Undated. Accessed December 19, 2019. [https://canada.citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/
- Citizen’s Climate Lobby Canada. “Leave Behind: Our Ask of the Federal Government.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Canada Website. May 7, 2019. Accessed December 20, 2019. https://canada.citizensclimatelobby.org/leave-behind-our-ask-of-the-federal-government-may-2019/
- “Rep. Zeldin Meets With Citizens Climate Lobby In Washington DC”. 2017. Congressman Lee Zeldin. https://zeldin.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-zeldin-meets-citizens-climate-lobby-washington-dc.
- Hand, Mark. 2018. “Senator Exposes The Hypocrisy Of ‘So-Called Climate Caucus’ Members”. Thinkprogress.Org. https://thinkprogress.org/senator-whitehouse-criticizes-climate-caucus-273a5a500ec2/.
- Citizen’s Climate Lobby. “Advisory Board.” Citizen’s Climate Lobby Website. Undated. Accessed December 13, 2019. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/advisory-board/
- “Governing Board”. 2018. Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Accessed July 9. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/governing-board/.
- Federal Election Commission “Browse Individual Contributions – FEC.Gov”. 2018. FEC.Gov. Accessed July 9. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&min_date=01%2F01%2F2017&max_date=07%2F08%2F2018&contributor_employer=Citizens+Climate+Lobby.
- Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Hopewell Fund. 2017. Schedule I (List of Grants).
- “Citizens’ Climate Lobby.” Arnold Foundation. Accessed February 15, 2021. https://www.arnoldventures.org/grants/citizens-climate-lobby.