Through climate strikes around the world, young people are demanding world leaders take immediate action against climate change. But enough emphasis is not placed on the importance of voting. Some assume that effective climate policy only comes from presidents, prime ministers and congresspeople. But in the United States, that is not the case.

How environmental policy works

Why your vote matters

  • By electing city council members, state congresspeople and representatives who champion environmental policies, voters can make their environmental concerns heard. Recent elections have already had a tremendous impact on environmental policy and climate change could be the top political issue in the 2020 elections
  • In 2019, Virginia’s legislature whose members ran on climate-focused platforms, passed the Clean Economy Act to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
  • The election in 2018 of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is committed to fighting climate change, led to the Green New Deal’s proposal in the U.S. Congress in 2019. This proposal sparked a movement with moderate and progressive candidates alike endorsing it.

The bottom line

  • If voters prioritize climate change, politicians will too. Already, as voters are more concerned about climate change, politicians are adopting robust platforms to combat climate change.
  • Though you may feel your vote doesn’t matter in elections, it does. Individual votes are powerful in state and municipal elections. By electing candidates committed to combating climate change, voters can push for climate policy and bring climate change to the forefront of politics.
  • Nevertheless, presidential initiative remains important in the fight against climate change, as the executive branch sets national legislative goals.

Remember: climate change can be fought in the streets and at the ballot box. Vote for candidates who prioritize the issues you value in local, state and federal elections. At the end of the day, votes shape policies, not vice versa.

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