From July 11-13, over 3,000 progressive activists from across the United States gathered for the Netroots Nation (NN19) conference in Philadelphia, and Oil Change was there for all the action. While our collective movement for justice has many critical issues, the climate crisis stood out throughout the weekend as a crucial part of the progressive dialogue. Here’s a quick Twitter journey through some climate highlights from NN19:

As you can imagine, people at this year’s conference were fired up about a Green New Deal. The conference kicked off with a panel on “Making the Green New Deal Real,” moderated by Brad Johnson, with award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Naomi Klein, Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash, New Consensus co-founder and Executive Director Demond Drummer, and well-regarded California politician Kevin de Leon.

Then, in the afternoon, the Hip Hop Caucus’s podcast, “Think 100%: The Coolest Show on Climate Change,” recorded its latest show live for a gathered crowd at NN19. Hosts Rev. Yearwood and Antonique Smith were joined by special guest Vic J. Barrett. Barrett is one of 21 plaintiffs with Our Children’s Trust who are suing the U.S. federal government to defend the rights of youth and future generations. This whole interview was 🔥. 

On Thursday night, with a rainstorm outside, many of us gathered for a Green New Deal Happy Hour, where notes were compared, plans were made, inspiring speeches were shared, and good food was consumed (there were even eggplant sloppy joes, because yes, that is a thing). 

As in previous years, Netroots attendees were abuzz about the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge throughout the conference. The pledge has been signed by more than 1,600 politicians from across the country — including 21 of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Along with coalition partners, Oil Change brought a pledge board with permanent markers, and got a whole bunch of signers, old and new, to sign their names.

Friday kicked off with a critical panel, “Racial Justice & Climate Change: Building A Multiracial Environmental Justice Movement. Moderated by Data for Progress Director of Green New Deal Strategy Julian Brave NoiseCat, the panel featured Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash, U.S. Communications Associate Director Thanu Yakupitiyage, and artist, filmmaker, and digital communications strategist Jade Begay. They were joined by Alexa Ross and O. from Philly Thrive, a Philadelphia-based multiracial, cross-class organization working hard for a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a thriving, inclusive clean energy future in the city.

Soon after came the panel “Communicating Climate Action at the Intersections: Perspectives in Storytelling and Narrative,” moderated by Thanu Yakupitiyage with

Afterward, conference participants streamed into the hot summer afternoon heat for a truly amazing and inspiring “Lights for Liberty” rally that took over the streets of Philadelphia:

At dusk, the Real Climate Leadership Happy Hour kicked off, sponsored by Oil Change U.S., 350 Action, and Climate Hawks Vote. On a breezy evening, dozens of conference attendees joined together to socialize, chat about climate organizing, and learn more about the amazing work Philly Thrive is doing in Philadelphia. Their presentation started with a moment for everybody to take a deep breath and reflect on the right to breathe. CLICK HERE to donate to Philly Thrive’s critical, ongoing work for energy and environmental justice in the city of Philadelphia.

On Saturday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, joined the Netroots Climate Caucus for a few minutes to give a short speech and take a few questions. He talked about his climate plans, the need for real climate leadership, and his continued call for a DNC-sanctioned climate debate. In addition, he discussed his opposition to the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in Michigan, to cheers from the group. His latest statement on the matter was a call to action for other 2020 contenders: “I hope that every fellow Democratic candidate for President joins me in opposing this dangerous pipeline.” Plenary sessions with candidates also included mention of the climate crisis and the need for bold action. 

On Saturday afternoon, the “We Paved the Road: A Frontline Perspective on the Green New Deal Moment” panel moderated by Climate Justice Alliance’s Anthony Rogers-Wright, with Sierra Club Pennsylvania’s Coordinator of Philadelphia Climate Works Zakia Elliott, UPROSE (Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization) Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre, and Movement Strategy Innovation Center fellow Anthony Giancatarino. Learn more from Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) about how to center frontline communities in the Just Transition.

Later Saturday, the Oil Change U.S. team joined dozens of fellow climate activists to disrupt a Democratic National Committee (DNC) panel at the conference and make our voices heard, yet again, to the DNC in our demand for a full DNC-sanctioned climate debate! We packed the room, started a chant, and then several people directly impacted by the climate crisis told their heartfelt stories. 

The whole thing was live-streamed, and after we left the room, the chant continued in the halls. It looked like this: 

Due to our collective ongoing efforts, the call for a climate debate has been gaining serious momentum. Under intense pressure from the grassroots, twenty-one 2020 presidential candidates, and even their own membership, the executive committee of the DNC recently voted to reevaluate the #ClimateDebate issue. 

The proposal will now be reviewed by the DNC’s resolutions committee before going up for a full DNC vote in late August. That means we have just one month to put the pressure on DNC members to make the right decision. Help us keep the pressure on: Tell members of the DNC to fully support a Climate Debate!

All in all, the Netroots Nation conference made clear that the climate crisis continues to be a top concern, and there is passion and energy around raising our voices, demanding real climate leadership from decision makers, and demanding solutions that meet the scale of this crisis. The historic success of the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge shows just how powerful our efforts have been, and how far we’ve come. But there’s a lot more work to do. 

We know that standing up to the out-of-control fossil fuel industry is essential if we are going to get ourselves out of this crisis, and the fossil fuel industry is starting to really feel the heat. Want proof? The secretary general of OPEC, Mohammed Barkindo, said that climate activists are “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward.” That was an undeniably true statement, which received a celebratory thank you from Greta Thurnberg and from activists across the world. We’re certainly doing something right…

Next year, the annual Netroots Nation conference will be in the midst of a heated general election season for 2020, and we can expect more fireworks, more victories, and a whole lot more talk about real climate leadership. We’ll be ready for it.


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