Youth Pressure MA Governor to Speak Up for Climate Action

ACE Fellows, Go Team members, and Boston Student Advisory Council members celebrate their victory.

On Wednesday, May 17, a delegation of youth, led by the Action Fellows with the Alliance for Climate Education and our partners at 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future (350 Mass) and the Boston Student Advisory Council, prepared to meet with the staff of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to urge the Governor to speak out against the Trump administration’s threats to pull the US out of the Paris Climate agreement. Two weeks earlier twelve other state Governors released a letter urging the President to keep the commitment the United States made in the Paris agreement (in 2015 195 nations agreed to limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius and strive to stay below 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change). Although Massachusetts is a state known for its leadership in fighting climate change, our Governor, Charlie Baker, was not among the twelve Governor’s who signed the letter to President Trump.

When people lead by example—speaking up, mobilizing their communities, and telling that story through media, elected representatives are forced to respond. 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is a Republican and when it comes to actions of the Trump administration—from the travel ban, to the proposed border wall, to dismantling the Clean Power Plan—Governor Baker has been largely silent. Baker’s silence led activists (at 350 Mass and other organizations) to start the #SpeakUpCharlie campaign to highlight that, by not speaking out against them, our Governor is complicit with these actions. Efforts to move Governor Baker to speak up included using the #SpeakUpCharlie hashtag on social media, holding rallies outside the State House, and mobilizing constituents to call the Governor’s office, but until recently they garnered little response.

When the Trump administration threatened to pull the US out of the historic Paris Climate agreement and still Governor Baker said nothing, the ACE Fellows decided to take action. Following the lead of our partners at 350 Mass, the fellows began by making calls to the Governor’s office at their weekly Fellowship meeting.

It is the job of our representatives in Government to act on our behalf, and it is our job to make it clear to them what we want.

At the recent Youth Climate Action Network Summit at MIT, ACE Fellow Daniel Abdulah and Go Team member Izzy Huggins led a workshop that concluded with the participants making calls to the Governor’s office and leaving messages urging him to speak up for the climate agreement. The group also made calls recruiting youth to join them at the statehouse. Finally, with our partners at 350 Mass and the Boston Student Advisory Council the ACE Fellows and ACE GoTeam activists we organized a delegation to deliver to an oversized printed letter (from the twelve other State Governors to Trump) and with media present ask Governor Baker’s staff if the Governor would sign the letter or meet with them and explain why he would not. But, hours before this meeting was set to take place, Massachusetts Governor Baker and Vermont Governor Scott (Republican) released their own letter to the Trump administration making a clear case that climate change is urgent, we need to take action now, and the US should stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.  

How did this happen? What was it that motivated the Governor to finally speak up to Trump administration? "'The delegation of high school students' visit put Governor Baker in a position where he had to make a choice: join the youth in their display of true leadership, or blatantly put political convenience before the wellbeing of the next generation," reflected 350 Mass Communications Coordinator, Katherine Anderson.

The delegation continued with the action to deliver the letter anyway. Action Fellow Chiamaka Oblio delivered a statement thanking the Governor and asking for continued action to back up his words. "We are thrilled that Governor Baker went above and beyond our delegation's request that he defend the Paris Agreement by writing his own letter," she said. "This is the kind of bold, non-partisan leadership required to preserve a livable climate future for all, and the next step is for Goveronor Baker to get Massachusetts back on track to meet our own state's legal requirements to reduce carbon."

ACE Go Team member Izzy Huggins said afterward, "It was extremely empowering to be one of the high schoolers who moved our governor to act. It can be discouraging at times to work so passionately on something that affects your life entirely and rarely see positive results. That's why Charlie Baker's actions were so important; they gave us hope in our ability to create real change."

When people lead by example--speaking up, mobilizing their communities, and telling that story through media, elected representatives are forced to respond. It is the job of our representatives in Government to act on our behalf, and it is our job to make it clear to them what we want.

Read more about this action and the Governor’s response in CommonWealth Magazine.