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Obama to Nation on Climate: Get Ready, Get Set, Go

07/09/2013 08:54 pm 20:54:57 | Updated Sep 08, 2013

There has never been as big a runway domestically or internationally to craft solutions to climate change. President Obama's climate plan, announced at Georgetown University on June 25th, is the most profound and important step the U.S. federal government has ever taken on climate change. Key audiences need to recognize that and act on it.

In addition to thanking President Obama, climate policy strategists who have labored in the vineyards for decades on building efficiency, clean transportation, renewable energy, energy finance, international agreements, resiliency, and climate science education all ought to be sprinting full speed to make sure everything the president has proposed happens over the next thrree years. The plan lays out scores of objectives the president has now made federal policy priorities and tasked his administration to implement.

It is critical now as well that grassroots advocates, who have made climate change such a public issue with their resistance to tar sands and the Keystone pipeline, embrace the [resident's plan and not just sit back and smile about all they have wrought. Few thought they could pull it off and even fewer imagined their urgency and moral suasion would translate into much more than a fight about a single pipeline.

Advocates need to shift gears and be prepared, assuming the president and Secretary Kerry do reject the pipeline permit, to work as hard and valiantly for the president's ambitious solutions agenda as they did to say no to the pipeline. It's always easier to shout no than it is to argue yes, but advocates need to turn that corner and become a determined force supporting solutions. If they do and if they are consistent about it over the next three years, they can shift the national conversation on climate in the process.

At the same time, the president and his political advisers need to realize how critical pipeline advocates are to the success of his solutions agenda. It won't be possible to move the sprawling June 25th agenda without the passion the pipeline advocates have brought to Keystone. If advocates feel disappointed, they will inevitably snipe and complain, and the President will feel slighted, and he will not be likely to engage the climate agenda again with the passion he showed at Georgetown. As a result, this is a tricky moment.

Presidential political advisers, please protect your president. Do not let him suffer the slings and arrows of a disappointed Keystone mob. He will have so much more fun with the climate agenda if you protect his back on Keystone and unite all the potential forces of yes on this issue. Smart politics suggest that the president reject the pipeline quickly so the full force of the environmental advocacy community can come together in support of the president's plan now.

Meanwhile, climate champions in local, state, business, investor, faith, youth, and national security communities, you too cannot sit back. Leadership needs to come all levels to achieve the President's objectives. It is time to get to work and organize around the parts of the plan you have an ability to affect. This is a golden opportunity.

The Koch Brothers-fueled dirty energy industry attack machine, the hyper-partisan Chamber of Commerce, and others are swarming. They have already reinvigorated their attacks on democrats in coal states. While climate naysayers and coal status quo-ers are in a minority according to every poll on climate out recently, they are determined and well-funded and in their ranks are some very desperate coal industry executives who see their customer base shrinking before their eyes. Sectoral leaders, because you care about climate change and about the huge clean energy economic opportunity that is emerging, please get to work.

Though the president has enormous executive authority, he also needs to know that his actions are broadly supported. Solutions rallies as vociferous as the keystone rally on the Washington Mall are needed in every mall across the country, and a solutions voice needs to remain assertive for the remainder of the president's time in office. Inside and outside the federal government, practical, determined efforts are also needed to smartly engineer the solutions agenda that is now possible given the president's impressive leadership.

Europeans meanwhile must also maintain the resolve internationally that they have shown for the last dozen years, and push for such things as ending public financing for dirty energy and for crafting a next generation international climate agreement. Europeans have been incredible leaders during the past twelve years. Now European and other international leaders have a partner in the White House, who has tipped his hand that he supports a strong new international agreement in 2015. Please don't lay back. This is a good time to double down.

Anyone who reads the science on climate change knows how serious it is. In the U.S., we've all been deadened to some degree by the political intransigence on climate of the past dozen years. Now we have a very important opportunity to surge forward. Please let's realize it. Thanks go to President Obama. He has done a great service, but he is going to need support and strong can-do partners. The fractiousness and division in U.S. politics is atrocious, and in its maw is a fierce and wild resistance to sensible action. Let's use the clarity of the nearly unanimous climate science and the broad and growing public support for practical action and for clean energy to push back on the fringe deniers and move forward to a clean, healthy, bright economic future.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and not of his employer.