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(Left to right) Seniors Abigail Waugh and Kalyxa Roman are the co-chairs of the Climate Reality Project chapter.

Credit: Raymon Shi

The National Climate Reality Action Fund Spring 2020 Climate Voters campaign "Vote Your Future, Vote Climate" launched last week at Penn.

Sponsored by Green Corps' field organizer Josh Swift, and led by College first-year Hannah Yoon and College junior Erin Kelly, the campaign aims to encourage Penn students to register to vote and to take climate action. The campaign will include several educational events, advocacy trainings, and voter registration drives.

Kelly said organizers hosts voter registration drives on Locust Walk every Friday. Swift added that the group meets weekly to recruit volunteers who register people to vote, lead social media and digital strategy, and plan larger events. The group has met with and plans to collaborate with the Student Sustainability Association at Penn, Swift said.

The Climate Voters campaign is a part of the Climate Reality Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization founded by former United States Vice President Al Gore. Its goal is to use bold action to solve the climate crisis. In addition to Penn, many other universities across the U.S. are participating in this campaign, said Swift. 

He added that the climate voter registration campaign is "completely non-partisan."

“We just want as many people as possible thinking about climate and getting more involved in pushing that conversation forward,” he said.

Kelly said the campaign’s commitment to nonpartisanship compelled her to join the group. With the 2020 elections around the corner, she said she found the Climate Voters' mission to be especially relevant.

Yoon was initially drawn to the campaign because it combines elements of both her environmental studies and political science majors. While working on the Climate Voters campaign, she said she hopes to further it’s goals and gain the skills necessary to start her own sustainability initiatives in the future.

Members of Penn's Climate Reality Project chapter answered why they plan to act on climate change at the their kick-off meeting. (Photo from Josh Swift)

The Climate Reality Project, a separate but affiliated organization with the Climate Reality Action Fund, has many local chapters on college campuses across the country. Penn's chapter of the Climate Reality Project was founded in 2016 as a ‘moderate voice’ advocating for carbon neutrality. 

While the Penn Climate Reality Project chapter and Climate Voters campaign are not directly affiliated, the leaders say they keep their members informed about the other groups' events and support each other in their campaigns. 

Wharton senior Kalyxa Roman and College senior Abigail Waugh are the Climate Reality Project chapter's current co-chairs. Waugh is one of the chapter’s co-founders and Roman said she joined the chapter during her first year as a way to reduce her carbon footprint while living on campus. Since then, Roman, Waugh, and 10 other members have been working to pressure Penn administration to commit to 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Roman praised Amy Gutmann’s recent announcement stating that the University will enter a Power Purchase Agreement in which Penn would develop two new solar energy facilities in Pennsylvania. The agreement would allow Penn to avoid emitting 166,000 tons of carbon annually, according to the Jan. 29 email Gutmann sent to the Penn community.

She added that the group had been discussing a Power Purchase Agreement with the Sustainability Office for about a year prior to the announcement and had been waiting on the University's public commitment to the agreement. Roman said that the University's pledge to cut 45% of carbon emissions from their 2010 levels by 2023 is a step in the right direction, but is still not enough.

Swift and Roman said that their groups are trying to show University administration and politicians that many students are unsatisfied with their climate policies.  

"The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its reports in fall 2018, saying that we have just 10 years to make significant changes in order to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate,” Swift said. “We have the opportunity to show politicians that if they want to be elected, they need to have a serious stance on climate.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The Climate Reality Project organized "Vote Your Future, Vote Climate" when, in fact, it was the Climate Reality Fund that organized the program. The DP regrets this error.