by Alison Wescott
With over 500,000 members nationwide and 29 local leagues across Florida, the League of Women Voters (LWV) serves as a powerhouse for information exchange on a variety of civic issues including climate solutions. A nonpartisan organization, LWV advances positive change through community action and citizen engagement, providing a broad perspective, informing voters, supporting “get out the vote” efforts for climate matters, and acting to hold elected officials accountable. Our teams encourage civic engagement by hosting webinars, sponsoring panel discussions, speakers and roundtables, writing blogs, OpEds and letters to the editor, and acting as a point of connection for partner organizations. LWV works with legislators and other elected officials, as well as government staff to define and develop policy founded on in-depth research and consensus.
The LWV declared Climate Change a key priority in 2020 and adopted a climate emergency mobilization resolution to affirm its commitment to: Immediate, wide-scale mobilization by the U.S. to restore, protect and fund an ecologically sustainable environment and climate, based on an interrelated approach that is environmentally sound, science-based, just and equitable, and dedicated to adequately addressing the scale and speed of the local climate change emergency.
The LWV has since formed the U.S. Climate Team, initially recruiting 900 members from across the country to fight climate change. The LWV’s U.S. Climate Team has representatives from all 50 states engaged in its core teams: the LWV US Climate Steering Team, Federal Legislation, Regulations and Policy, and Social Media. Issues of focus include putting a price on carbon, food, soil and agriculture, wildfires, electrification of buildings, climate justice, municipal climate action plans, and oceans. Members participate on a variety of levels, either leading or joining a small team focused on a specific climate issue or taking part in online discussions as part of a climate-focused forum. All are welcome to join the online forum, currently composed of 300 members that share information about effective climate solutions and experiences with climate action at the local, state, and international levels.
At the global level, the LWV will sponsor in-person participation of member observers at the Conference of Parties (COP 26) in the lead up to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland that will take place Oct. 31-November 12. Other League members will participate virtually in advocacy training to help build a more sustainable world and to accelerate action toward achieving the goals of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In 2018 the LWV of Collier County forged a coalition with the Florida State League and Solar United Neighbors to promote the use of solar energy co-ops among Collier residents. After a successful media and publicity effort, seven in-person forums were held to kick-off the Co-op Program, which educated local residents about the benefits of installing household solar power systems and organized a group purchase for interested households. Though COVID forced meetings to go virtual, over 75 families either purchased solar electric systems directly from the Collier League’s selected vendor at a group discount or were inspired to install solar on their own. The Florida and Collier County LWVs have also begun promoting the expansion of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations across the county and state, a critical step toward advancing the adoption of electric vehicles.
Sea Level Rise is of particular interest to the Collier County League, due to our coastal and low-lying geography. Several of our members work closely with faculty from the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University, Growing Climate Solutions, the Conservancy of SWFL, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to document key stakeholders’ sentiments about the assets at risk from climate change. Using survey methods, focus groups, and individual outreach, the Collier League aims to inform local governments about approaches to achieving climate adaptation and resiliency. The LWVs plans to convene ten meetings and roundtables over the next year with local stakeholders, including businesses and nonprofits, to raise awareness and engage citizens in a dialogue around science-based climate change research and solutions.