February 27 2023
Team Incite

Incite Post | February 26th, 2023: Climate Innovation Beyond Technology

February 27 2023
Team Incite

Feb 26, 2023
Incite Community,
We know that the scale of our climate challenge is going to require innovation of all kinds. New technologies are important, but they're just one part of the story. Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about what climate-forward innovation in policy and public leadership might look like, and how we can support more of it. While historic progress has been made at COP conferences, through federal legislation, and in public opinion we’re focusing this edition of the Incite Post on another key area where climate progress is needed: local politics.

Our friends at Climate Cabinet have been working on this issue for quite some time now. Their organization helps local leaders run, win, and legislate on the climate crisis. They also started Climate Cabinet Education to track local climate policy and offer guidance to policymakers. What we’ve learned from them is simple: local and down-ballot elections, including ‘off-cycle’ years, are immensely important for making progress on climate change. 

Last year, Lina Hidalgo won re-election as County Judge of Harris County, Texas in a very close race. As the chief executive of the third-most populous county in the United States, Lina is developing a climate action plan, electrifying Harris County, and demonstrating how local executive governments can invest in making their services and infrastructure climate friendly.  

In Louisiana, Davante Lewis unseated an 18-year incumbent for a seat on the state’s Public Service Commission. His election on a climate-first platform shifts the balance of power on one of the most important energy regulatory bodies in the country towards holding fossil fuel companies to account – an example of how down ballot elections for regulators can accelerate our transition to green energy.

These are just two examples of the role local leadership can play in shaping our climate future. They also highlight the importance of constantly evaluating our avenues of impact and ensuring the "last mile" of community-level support is a priority alongside big ideas and new technologies.

We’ll be spending the next few months thinking about how we can be most effective in helping progressive voices and civil society organizations lead our local and state governments through the climate crisis. If you’d like to do the same, find out what local elections are happening in your area and scroll down to learn more about Climate Cabinet’s work.
For this addition of the Incite Post, we sat down with Climate Cabinet's Executive Director, Caroline Spears, to hear more about how Climate Cabinet is addressing climate change through local politics. 
Profile photo of Caroline SpearsCaroline Spears
Executive Director, Climate Cabinet

What do you see as our toughest political challenges for fighting climate change? Are you optimistic? 

At Climate Cabinet, we know that there is no silver bullet to solve climate change. This crisis must be solved with action at every level of government. In America, this means 500,000 state and local elected officials - who are collectively responsible for 75% of the country’s emissions goals under the Paris Agreement. 

Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government passed its largest ever commitment to tackling climate change – but actually implementing this law is up to state and local governments. Ensuring rural towns and big cities alike reap the benefits of this monumental opportunity requires pro-climate leadership at state and local offices nationwide. Down-ballot climate champions need better support, on the campaign trail and in office. With the right folks in office, I’m optimistic we can get this done. 

What’s one of the most impactful victories you’ve seen in a down ballot election?

In Minnesota, Climate Cabinet supported Nicole Mitchell - a former meteorologist - in her state senate race for District 47. We provided her with resources critical for down-ballot races - like funding and message guidance - and helped her achieve victory on Election Night. Her win ultimately secured a one-seat pro-climate majority in the Minnesota Senate. With this majority, Nicole passed a 100% clean electricity law just a few weeks ago. 

State clean electricity standards like Minnesota’s have been the primary driver of clean energy growth in the US to-date, so this win is of national importance. And, this means new clean energy jobs for workers and less pollution for Minnesota families. 

How can our readers help? 

Donate to down-ballot candidates and organizations like Climate Cabinet immediately. High-impact climate elections happen all year, every year - the next high impact climate race is just 5 weeks away! 

Research shows that of the climate political funding available, only 15% goes to down-ballot candidates – even though these candidates control 75% of emissions. Early money yields big impact - that’s why Climate Cabinet exists. We use data science to target the races that are most likely to flip and make an impact on Day One. Your financial support will be maximized and put to good use the moment you click “donate”. 

What piece of fiction - in any medium - has brought you joy recently? 

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. Beautiful world-building.
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