Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The Energy Action Coalition officially launched Power Vote yesterday, a nationwide effort to mobilize a million young people to vote on the issue of climate change in November. The nonpartisan campaign aims to put curbing emissions, leading in clean energy, and creating green jobs on the presidential agenda this election, focusing on the “Millennial Generation” of 18- to 30-year-olds.

“We want to make it very clear that as one-quarter of the voting population, if you are on the ballot this fall, you need the youth vote to win, and winning the youth vote means addressing actual solutions to global climate change,” said Jessy Tolkan, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition. “I see the young people across this nation as the truth squad — we won’t be fooled by corporations, and we won’t be fooled by candidates who are attempting to greenwash themselves to waltz into Washington, D.C.”

The Energy Action Coalition brings together 48 environmental groups, with a focus on elevating these issues on college campuses. The Power Vote pledge asks young people to commit to voting for “clean, just energy” when they go to the polls. The campaign’s platform calls on candidates to invest in millions of green-collar jobs, invest in public transit, support renewable energy, end relieance on fossil fuels, commit to cutting carbon emissions significantly, become a world leader on climate change, and refuse campaign contributions from “dirty energy” interests. It also calls for an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.

The group has renowned climate scientist James Hansen on board to help promote the cause. Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, noted at Wednesday’s press conference that climate change “poses a great inequity for young people.”

“Climate change should not be a political matter,” said Hansen. “We need to identify those candidates for office independent of political party who will support the policies that preserve the climate, our planet, and the future for young people and nature.”

Power Vote plans to have organizers on more than 300 college campuses in at least 37 states. They’ve already started organizing in some areas, and have culled 100,000 pledges. Beyond just working on four-year campuses, they’re also organizing in community and junior colleges, in order to target a wider range of young adults, including young people people from lower socioeconomic groups and people of color.

“Eighteen to 30-year-olds represent the most diverse generation in American history,” said Tolkan. “We’re out here to redefine what the people look like who are fighting on this issue. We are not just environmentalists, we are not just treehuggers anymore. We are young people that span all the demographics of this country.”

The initiative is also meant to get more young people out to political events across the country to encourage the candidates to talk about these issues and what they plan to do in office. Every candidate should be forced to talk about these issues on the campaign trail, said Energy Action Coalition’s communications director, Brianna Cayo Cotter.

“We’re not going out in record numbers because there are cool candidates,” said Cotter. “It’s because issues that affect our life and our future are at stake this election. We realize that, and we’re going to be stepping up for what we believe in this election.”