A Summer at Climate XChange

Benny Smith is a sophomore at Brown University studying Geophysics. He has been involved with climate policy and advocacy for a number of years, having helped start the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders in upstate NY and lobbied for carbon pricing at multiple levels of government. Currently, he is serving as a field advisor for Our Climate’s New England chapter. Benny also works on climate modelling and data analysis research at his University. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing the violin, and going for runs outside. He also has four younger siblings (one of whom was a New York Fellow for Our Climate!).


This Spring, as my fellowship with Our Climate was coming to a close, I found myself clicking around on the internet in search of ways to continue my involvement in climate advocacy following my Our Climate fellowship. Unfortunately, in the midst of a pandemic, I no longer had the ability to work in person. My haphazard googling turned out to be unnecessary, though. It was at a weekly Our Climate zoom call that I heard about Climate XChange, the group with which I pursued a part-time internship this summer.

Climate XChange is a policy nonprofit focused on providing research and analysis that can help reduce our impact on the Earth’s climate. The group is particularly focused on market-based solutions, and its Massachusetts team shares many of the same policy priorities as Our Climate New England. From late May until the end of August, I participated in Climate XChange’s State Carbon Pricing Network Fellowship program. My assignment? Climate policy in Illinois.

In this role, I zoomed with advocates, business leaders, and policymakers across the state and learned about state-level policies that could rapidly remove fossil fuels from the state’s energy portfolio. I was left with the impression that the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the signature bill of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, has a lot of potential both in terms of its likelihood of being passed and its ability to bring about rapid emissions reductions in an equitable and economically sound manner.

One product of my research on Illinois climate policy was an article about the Clean Energy Jobs Act, as well as an update on the bill following a bribery scheme that came to light involving a major utility and the Speaker of the House in the Illinois state government. I also wrote an article about heat waves and how their impacts interact with the COVID-19 pandemic.

During all of this work, I noticed many parallels between the political dynamics of Our Climate’s work in Massachusetts and the discussions I had with stakeholders across Illinois. As a result, my prior experience as an Our Climate fellow provided me with vocabulary and background knowledge that proved useful in my summer research for Climate XChange.

If you’re interested in hearing more about intersections between the work being done by Our Climate and Climate XChange, check out the upcoming conversation between Our Climate Executive Director Jasmine Sanders and Climate XChange Executive Director Michael Green that will be broadcast on October 15 at 6pm EST as part of Our Climate’s new “Is it hot enough for ya?” conversation series. RSVP here.


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