Home to one of President Trump’s grand estates, perhaps the country’s most competitive electoral swing state, and host to some of the most divisive partisanship in the country, Florida represents an epicenter of hard hitting politics in America. You may be surprised, then, to learn that climate change has managed, in some parts of the state, to bring representatives from both sides of the aisle to common ground.
So how did members of Congress manage to set aside their differences and find common cause? The unlikely feat was accomplished through the development of the Climate Solutions Congressional Caucus.
Established just last year, the Climate Change Caucus is run by Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch, and now includes 20 representatives. The bipartisan leadership has helped to depoliticize the issue for members, fostering a space for both Democrats and Republicans to come together in what the founders of the caucus describe as “the first bipartisan task force on climate change” in the House of Representatives.
“Our bipartisan caucus is starting off the new Congress by expanding our membership and showing our colleagues that Republicans and Democrats can put partisan politics aside to work on climate change.” Democratic Ted Deutch, Representative for Florida’s 22nd congressional district
The caucus takes a multipronged approach in its handling of climate change. Members emphasize education first, detailing how a changing climate can threaten local economies, national security, environmental wellbeing, and infrastructure. And perhaps most importantly, the members help devise “bipartisan, economically-viable solutions to these challenges.”
Thus far, the Caucus has successfully enlisted an even number of members from both parties, unlike some of the already existing environmental caucuses in government. And the reason for this is simple: improving the lives of constituents through viable climate solutions is good politics—no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.
Whether you are a mayor, local or state representative, member of congress, or just wanting to take the lead in your city, the precedent being set by the Climate Solutions Caucus provides a strong model to replicate.
“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient.” Republican Carlos Curbelo, Representative for Florida’s 26th congressional district
First, it is important to set a clear mission, which members from all political persuasions can agree upon. These include committing to cleaner air and water, more green spaces, and updating existing infrastructure. These actions make cities and communities better places to live, help grow local economies, and bring well paying, stable jobs to residents. Second, have obtainable and identifiable goals so that residents in your community can track, see, and feel the benefits of climate action. And finally, communicate the need and benefits of climate action. Let residents know why developing and implementing a climate action plan is good for the environment, and for their neighborhoods and community.
Local, state and congressional leadership is needed now more than ever to push climate solutions forward. By focusing on the benefits of climate action, leaders can put politics aside and find common cause. To get started on this journey, check out our 15 tips for communicating on climate with your community, and keep an eye out for our soon-to-be-released communications guide made specifically for community leaders. You can also sign up for our webinar, and get the latest research on how to effectively communicate about climate solutions!
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.