The Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition’s (PASC) Andover Climate Lobby (ACL) initiative sent 20 students to the Massachusetts State House last Tuesday, where they joined over 150 students from 25 other schools from the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition (MYCC) in calling upon state representatives to support bills relating to climate education and environmental protection.
In an interview conducted with WBZ NewsRadio, Sebastian Lemberger ’25, External Affairs Coordinator for the PASC, elaborated on the motivation behind the lobbying. He stressed the time-sensitive nature of passing productive climate legislation that addresses climate change.
“We’re coming off of the least productive legislative session in the entire history of Massachusetts. The climate crisis is something that has a time limit on it, so we really want to drive home that the legislators need to start acting,” said Lemberger.
Isabell Luo ’25, a member of ACL’s board and one of the figures behind the planning of the trip, explained what lobbying entailed. She mentioned how lobbying is a cyclic process that oftentimes requires constant effort to produce results.
“You go in and usually a staff [and the legislator] will be there. We usually hand the legislator a copy of the specific bills we’re advocating for. Then, we get started, introduce ourselves, thank the legislator, present the bills, and then [we] make our ask, which usually means [we] ask them to co-sponsor the bill,” said Luo.
She continued, “It’s more of a conversation back and forth with the legislator. They’ll share what their concerns are, or they’ll ask their staffer to make sure they sponsor the bill. Sometimes we have to read the room and see where we can build a relationship because this isn’t a one-time thing that we do. We want to keep in touch with the legislators so that maybe if they don’t support something now, a year or two later, if we keep pushing for it, they might.”
During the most recent climate lobby, the MYCC advocated for five bills which each tackled a different facet of the climate crisis. Lemberger described the bills that the MYCC supported, explaining each bill’s importance and their impacts if they were to be signed into the legislature.
“The first is the Interdisciplinary Climate Justice Education Bill, which would incorporate the teaching of climate justice into Massachusetts educational standards… The next is the Polluter Pay Superfund Act, which would allow the Massachusetts State government to sue its top 100 polluters… The third is the Air Quality Bill… The Gas Moratorium Act is the fourth, [which] would stop the production of new gas infrastructure… The final bill is the Sunlight Bill, which aims to address transparency in the Massachusetts State House, it would allow the general public of Massachusetts to be able to see which legislators voted for what in the statehouse committee,” said Lemberger.
Suhaila Cotton ’24, another member of the ACL’s board with extensive experience with planning climate lobbies, highlighted the challenges in planning a lobby that extended beyond Andover to other communities. She detailed the process of coordinating with groups across the state, reaching a consensus on their stance toward the bills in question, and preparing new members for lobbying.
“It takes a lot of time, you start probably three or four months out. The main thing was finalizing the bills we want to lobby for, and since this is a coalition of people across Massachusetts, you’re trying to get many different people’s inputs and see if people agree or disagree on what bills we should prioritize. Then you’re reaching out to a ton of different schools, seeing who can come and who can run training [to] help people get ready for their meetings. Most people haven’t lobbied before, but their voices are important so we want to get them trained up,” explained Cotton.
A newcomer to Andover’s climate initiatives, Ethan Oder ’25 highlighted how the ACL trip allowed him to easily join the advocacy for climate action. He encouraged students of all experience levels to seek out opportunities to create change.
“I haven’t ever done climate lobbying… but it seemed like it was an opportunity we had to do a good thing and… advocate for something important. I haven’t been with the club before, [and] this was the first time I’ve lobbied or done anything big. It’s made me a lot more interested in the process and sort of motivated me to try to keep on with it. I think it’s important for everyone to know that you don’t have to know anything coming into [events like these], you can come from anywhere, with any interests,” said Oder.
Luo highlighted how important individual voices are and how much each person can contribute to a movement resulting in a positive impact on their community.
“Don’t underestimate your voice as a young person. Usually, [legislators’] jobs are not talking to a bunch of high schoolers, [and] I’ve found that they really enjoy [it]. I enjoy lobbying because I think it’s a way I can directly make an impact. Protests are important, I think that’s what we usually see online, but I think that [powerful] lobbying is a tool, and corporations use it, so I don’t see why students can’t as well,” said Luo.