History of USCAN

Our History

In 1989, a groundbreaking collaboration took root as organizations hailing primarily from Europe and the United States banded together to form an official yet flexible network. Their mission: To synchronize efforts in tackling the pressing issues of global climate change negotiations and domestic climate action. In the 1990s, a dynamic coalition of US state-based organizations united forces to wield influence over national priorities and the landmark Kyoto Protocol, forming the US Climate Action Network (USCAN). This momentous partnership marked a pivotal turning point for USCAN, sparking its inaugural surge in membership and forging alliances with state and local groups on both national and international fronts. 

As the 2000s unfolded, a series of events set the stage for a shift within the climate movement. The year 2009 saw the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen falter in delivering a new global agreement on climate change, followed by a setback in the U.S. Senate's legislative bid to cap carbon emissions. Against this backdrop, a growing number of Americans bore witness to the harsh realities of climate change, magnified by the aftermath of catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. This awakening spurred a collective recognition of the need for a more inclusive and diverse approach to drive meaningful climate policy and outcomes. Major environmental players reshaped their strategies, weaving grassroots and community organizing seamlessly into their international and national advocacy efforts. Meanwhile, USCAN set its sights on a strategic overhaul, launching a visionary initiative to expand its membership under the banner of a "Bigger, Better, Broader" network, with the goal of catalyzing transformative change in climate policy.

The years spanning 2010 to 2015 marked a period of remarkable growth and evolution for USCAN, culminating in a resounding presence at the historic international climate change conference in Paris in November 2015. During this transformative phase, the network grew rapidly from 80 member organizations in 2013 to a formidable force of 160 member organizations by 2016. Empowered by this momentum, under the stewardship of the newly appointed Executive Director Keya Chatterjee, USCAN undertook a comprehensive organizational assessment and strategic planning process. Informed by the voices of its members, USCAN charted a new course, pivoting from expansion to nurturing deeper connections and alignments among its diverse membership to drive impactful outcomes.

In 2017, USCAN members united to craft a visionary climate policy platform dubbed the Vision for Equitable Climate Action (VECA), grounded in the bedrock principles of climate science, equity, and justice. The subsequent establishment of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) subcommittee in 2018 underscored USCAN's commitment to democratic, participatory decision-making, advocating for equitable power-sharing and dismantling barriers to foster inclusive participation within the climate movement. Fast forward to 2020, a pivotal year that saw USCAN members collaboratively birth a transformative initiative known as Arm in Arm—a grassroots movement tailor-made for local communities nationwide. Arm in Arm's mission? To mobilize communities in ushering a new era defined by economic and racial justice, with the overarching goal of vanquishing the climate crisis. 

In 2022, a noticeable difference was observed in the network, with leaders from frontline environmental justice communities, faith groups, parents, and youth taking the leadership roles in the network. The wisdom from these members served as a gateway to the vibrant tapestry of the climate movement, nurturing a sense of belonging and empowerment. By the end of 2023, USCAN members decided to leverage the network's power and voted on two dynamic and distinct campaigns. These campaigns are set to succeed due to the support and relationships among members, as well as the diverse knowledge within the network.

In the present day, USCAN remains steadfast in its mission to orchestrate alignments across the climate movement and allied sectors, exerting pressure on governments to embrace bold and decisive climate action and catalyzing communities. With a resolute focus on ushering in the post-fossil fuel era and championing the needs of the most vulnerable in the face of the climate crisis, USCAN stands as a beacon of hope and resilience in the fight for a restorative future.

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