Tina Johnson, policy director for the U.S. Climate Action Network, facilitated a dialogue on the future of climate action at a Global Sustainability Forum on Feb. 23.
Johnson’s work focuses on coordinating USCAN member organizations to advance policies to tackle climate change in international and domestic arenas. Previously, Johnson served as a senior director at Energy Action Coalition.
Johnson said that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina catalyzed her passion to work on environmental policy issues. She visits Louisiana every year because she is so inspired by the resiliency and tenacity of the people of New Orleans all these years later.
Along this line, Johnson discussed how different demographics experience climate change differently, which means they view the priorities of climate action differently.
“Justice is defined differently by everyone. If you ask a white person what environmental justice means, it’s going to be a very different answer than if you ask a person of color,” Johnson said. “And you have to figure out a way to build coalitions out of these different definitions... Figuring out what the resonance is for justice is really key, and putting a human face on it.”
Regarding the new administration, Johnson said that policy makers need to pivot away from pursuing climate action through adrenaline and anger.
“We need to take the time to do the hard work to invest in social change in a way that people care about and understand why it matters to them,” Johnson said. “There is a language for conservatives that their audience is comfortable using, and that’s what progressives need to learn how to do. Find even the one point of common ground, and build from there.”