With grit, dedication, and a sharp mind for strategy, Nicole has led a life committed to driving policies that aim to solve issues of energy dependence, environmental risks, and climate change. Since founding the Climate Action Campaign four years ago, she’s led a city-wide charge in San Diego, CA, to push back on the energy lobby while increasing incentives for communities and their political leaders to pursue clean energy initiatives. In support of her goal of protecting the climate, Nicole’s also had to confront powerful lobbyists, advocates, and policymakers connected to the energy industry.
AdventureWomen first met Nicole on our 2018 Indonesia journey, a trip she felt was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of her many memories from that trip, Nicole specifically recalled her joy in meeting another pioneer, primate conservationist and founder of the Orangutan Foundation International, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas. Dr. Galdikas, a lifetime friend of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, just happened to be visiting the Foundation the day we were there. It was true serendipity that these two pioneer voices for environmental protection and climate change happened to meet in the forest, thousands of miles from their home countries.
A Voice for Change Around Energy Policy and Preserving Climate
Over the past thirty years, Nicole has become a well-known and highly respected figure in climate change politics and policy. Wearing all the hats, she’s been an activist, advocate, influencer, and thought leader on how to break away from Big Energy’s grip on America. Working at the local and state level in California, Nicole has been writing and spearheading policy changes in support of combating climate change, and she’s been at the forefront of a number of public events to encourage thinking in new ways about energy consumption. Named as one of the New York Times’ Top 10 Californians, Nicole has earned twelve awards and professional recognitions for her environmental activism. Recently, she was also chosen as the Woman of the Year in San Diego.
The Magic of Mentoring: A Mutual Passion for Clean Energy, Clean Air, and Clean Water
What inspired her life’s work? For Nicole, it was a summer internship in an unassuming office in Washington, DC. Her mentor was a progressive and passionate voice in the vanguard of advocacy for sustainable, clean energy and energy independence. Through the summer, he shared his knowledge about the stranglehold the oil industry held on America’s political and economic landscape and the dangers that are associated with an oil-based global economy. He raised her awareness of these important issues and that changed her life.
By the time September rolled around, Nicole had become mission-driven. She immediately joined groups involved in collective action on environmental issues. Stepping way out of her comfort zone, she started campaigning door-to-door for clean air and clean water. From there, she went to law school to become an environmental attorney.
Launch of the Climate Action Campaign (CAC)
The Climate Action Campaign was created in 2015. Nicole had recently authored a 100% clean energy Climate Action Plan for San Diego, but with a new mayor in city hall, there was a high risk that it might not become law. She and her small staff quickly began organizing, networking, speaking in public, and engaging social influencers. Their actions resulted in the city council voting unanimously to support her plan to cut carbon emissions in San Diego by 50%, representing the first legally binding climate plan by a major American city.
Were there dangers to her or her staff from taking on corporate interests? Yes, she says, there were. Though the Climate Action Campaign is a small organization, well-funded Big Energy lobbyists launched smear campaigns through social media and subtle publicity moves to try to rattle donors and elected officials, and weaken the reputation of CAC principals. Fortunately, everyone at CAC remained fully committed to their mission, stood their ground, and successfully beat back the energy lobby!
Nicole is big on mentoring her rising stars, supporting them speaking in the community and educating younger generations of climate warriors. She spoke about how much she enjoys watching her young team grow – in the political sphere, leading meetings, and speaking on the news. And even though they may feel unsure speaking on camera, she supports them 100% and is proud to watch them as they shine.
In what ways does Nicole see Climate Action Campaign growing? She says that, building on their success in San Diego, they’re moving toward helping to change policy in neighboring cities through incentives, community work, and policy development. They’re also taking a long-range view by considering bringing their model for policy change to other states.
Today, CAC is developing the San Diego Green New Deal, and San Diego can boast founding Community Choice Energy, a model for eight other cities and districts that are now committed to studying ways to make smarter energy choices.
AdventureWomen is so thankful to Nicole for sharing her story and wishes her and the entire team at CAC every success in the future. We’re looking forward to more great news from Nicole’s Climate Action Campaign!