In 2006, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore partnered with Cathy Zoi, who had served as Chief of Staff on Environmental Policy during the Clinton Administration, to create the Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP) and its affiliate, the Climate Protection Action Fund — the latter of which helped to secure funding for ACP from private donors. While Gore became ACP’s board chairman, Zoi was the CEO.
ACP described itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization committed to educating the global community about the urgency of implementing comprehensive solutions to the climate crisis.” With over 5 million members, it became one of the most powerful green advocacy groups in the United States.
Over the years, ACP partnered on various initiatives with such organizations as Green For All (founded by Van Jones), the Earth Day Network, the U.S. Climate Action Network, the National Wildlife Federation, the Paul Gorman-founded National Religious Partnership for the Environment, the National Audubon Society (formerly headed by Obama appointee Carol Browner), the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, the Energy Action Coalition, the Blue Green Alliance, and 350.org.
In 2006, ACP launched its first program, the Climate Project, whose mission was “to educate the public about the harmful effects of climate change and to work toward solutions at a grassroots level worldwide.” Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, the Climate Project opened additional chapters in Australia, Canada, India, Spain, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and Mexico. By 2010, the Project had shown its informational video to some 7.3 million people at 70,000 separate presentations.
In 2008, ACP initiated its Repower America campaign to rally the public around a “clean energy plan and a revitalized national energy infrastructure.” This initiative entailed a ten-year, 100% clean-energy goal, and it supported President Barack Obama’s plans for the creation of a new green economy. On December 18, sitting alongside Al Gore and Vice President Joe Biden, Obama declared solidarity with Gore’s environmental efforts, stating that “we have the opportunity now to create jobs all across this country, in all 50 states, to repower America, to redesign how we use energy and … [to] reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make us competitive for decades to come — even as we save the planet.”
Also in 2008, ACP launched a three-year, $300 million “We” campaign, a mass-media effort to convince the American public to support a national carbon-emissions cap and a new global pact on climate change. This initiative made use of online organizing as well as television advertisements on such programs as American Idol and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Al Gore explained his rationale for the new campaign: “This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public’s sense of urgency in addressing this crisis. I’ve tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it.”
That same year, ACP collaborated with the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the League of Conservation Voters to launch the Reality Coalition, whose goal was to draw attention to the environmental damage caused by coal, and to expose the coal industry’s “misleading” ad campaigns.
ACP reached the zenith of its influence in 2009, at which time it employed more than 300 people in 40 field offices across 28 states, spent some $28 million on advertising and marketing, and paid approximately $200,000 in lobbying fees to promote the cap-and-trade energy bill.
On March 27, 2009, President Obama announced his selection of ACP chief executive officer Cathy Zoi as his nominee for the post of Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. On June 19, the U.S. Senate confirmed Zoi for this position, with Maggie L. Fox replacing Zoi as ACP’s new CEO. In her new role, Zoi managed the Energy Department’s $2.3 billion applied science, research, development and deployment portfolio, and she oversaw $16.8 billion in funding that had been made available under Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (more commonly known as the 2009 Stimulus Package).
In January 2010, Fox Business’s John Stossel hosted Annette Meeks and Jonathan Blake of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota in a discussion about the crony capitalism that pervaded the “green jobs” provisions of the 2009 Stimulus Package. Specifically, they addressed the $584,000 in Stimulus Package funds that the Department of Energy had already funneled to a small window company called Serious Materials (renamed as Serious Energy in June 2011), where Zoi’s husband, Robin Roy, served as Policy Director. Meeks and Blake in particular called into question how Serious Materials had managed to become the White House’s “poster child” for green jobs and economic recovery, noting that executives from the company had appeared publicly with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden six times in just one year.
By April 2010, a number of media outlets were disclosing that Zoi and her husband held a significant financial stake not only in Serious Materials, but also in Landis+Gyr, Zoi’s former employer, which likewise benefited greatly from Stimulus Package spending. Robin Roy, for his part, owned options on 120,000 shares of Serious Materials and was slated to receive an additional 2,500 shares every month until October 2012. Zoi, meanwhile, owned between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of stock in Landis+Gyr.
Following the disastrous Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill that sent nearly 5 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, ACP and other environmental organizations exploited the incident to raise money for television advertisements calling for an end to America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
As of 2011, ACP’s board of directors included Al Gore; former Democrat congressman Sherwood Boehlert; Wangari Muta Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and a recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize; Theodore Roosevelt IV, chairman of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change and vice chair of the Wilderness Society; Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation; Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning professor of economics at Columbia University; Kevin Wall, founder of Control Room and Live Earth; Orin Kramer, chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council; Don Henry, former president of the Australian Committee of the International Union For The Conservation of Nature; Cindy Harrell Horn, co-founder and of the Environmental Media Association; and James Gustave Speth, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
On July 12, 2011, ACP and the Climate Project merged to form a new entity: the Climate Reality Project.