​Featured republicEN: Peter Bryn

over 3 years ago

On the eve of Earth Day, ClimateEye editor Chelsea Henderson took some time to chat with Peter Bryn, the Conservative Director for Citizens Climate Lobby. Here's a snapshot of their conversation.

How did you end up in the climate trenches?

My background is in marine engineering and naval architecture, or in order words, ship building. But as I was finishing grad school, I realized my primary concern was climate change, so I redirected my attention and found a job in the energy industry. While I found it interesting to work for a major oil and gas company, about three years ago, I decided I wanted to be more involved in climate advocacy, but in a way that isn't demonizing and doesn't point fingers at proverbial bad guys. That was when I discovered the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). I was drawn to the approach CCL takes, which is pretty much to work with everyone. I found their broad outreach and focus on the local level appealing. I ended up starting a CCL chapter in Houston. And here I am.

But now you work full time for CCL?

Yes, since the time I initially got involved, I upped the ante, so to speak. I resigned from my position at ExxonMobil and started working full time with CCL, currently as the Conservative Director. As the title implies, I'm focused on growing the base of conservative volunteers.

How does CCL get the message out?

CCL has two primary purposes: one is to empower people politically in a nonpartisan way and the other is to build political will to act on climate change. Overall, the organization has 330 chapters across the country. We have a goal of opening a chapter in each Congressional District. Locally, we break activities into four buckets: development, lobbying, media and outreach. When you localize the message, it changes the conversation. That's why it's critical for us to engage the local Chambers of Commerce presidents and mayors. Those voices need to engage the federal lawmakers and give them real, home-based reasons to support climate policy. We work hard to identify high value local leaders in support of climate action.

How's the climate message resonating with conservatives in Texas?

Texas is a unique place, and I don't just say that because I'm from New Jersey. Of course, living and working in the heart of the oil capital, you have to deliver the climate message in a certain way, engage in a different way than one would in other parts of the country. The solutions are different here, as is the attitude. Surprising to folks on the coasts, there are many who work in the oil and gas industry who support putting a price on carbon. Some of the major oil companies have come out in favor of revenue neutral carbon price. We are lucky to have six chapters in Houston. Many of our group leaders and members work in the oil and gas industry. In that way, we can have a conversation with potential members and say, "we are one of you." We can assure them that we understand the importance of the industry.

Why is this issue so important to you?

Climate change is a risk we need to deal with. It poses a risk to the economy. It poses a risk to our way of being. But a solution is coming. I firmly believe we have to be part of the discussion so we aren't left out of that solution. If you don't engage, then you risk ending up with an Obamacare for climate. Who wants that? Fundamentally, we want to thrive as a nation and culture, but in a less carbon intensive way.

How can we succeed?

If we want industry to be successful in reducing carbon emissions, policymakers must give them as much predictability and transparency as possible for direction of capital. I'm telling you, industry can deal with a carbon price; what they can't deal with is uncertainty. Washington needs to get a policy in place so we can all move on with our lives and businesses.

Put passion and attention where there's the most value: community leaders. We have to continue to build out the conservative caucus. And at CCL, we want to make sure we present a comfortable space for conservatives who want to volunteer and be part of the climate solution.

Peter Bryn is the Conservative Director for CCL. To learn more about CCL's Conservative Caucus, please contact conservatives@citizensclimatelobby.org