Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Insightful discussions abound at Climate Policy Forum

(From left to right) Benji Backer, James Edward Mills, Nada Elmikashfi, and Stephanie Janeth Salgado Altamirano spoke on a panel titled “Communications and Youth Mobilization” (From left to right) Benji Backer, James Edward Mills, Nada Elmikashfi, and Stephanie Janeth Salgado Altamirano spoke on a panel titled “Communications and Youth Mobilization”

Nearly 300 policymakers, practitioners, community leaders, and researchers attended the second annual La Follette Forum on October 6 in Madison. The daylong event on climate policy featured two keynote presentations, six panel discussions, and numerous networking opportunities. It was the La Follette School’s first hybrid conference, with attendees joining in person and online.

“Events like this conference are critical for thoughtful conversations about evidence-based solutions to some of our most pressing policy issues,” says La Follette School Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee. “We are deeply grateful for the financial support provided by the Kohl Initiative, which allows us to serve as a convener on climate policy and other topics.”

La Follette School faculty members Greg Nemet and Morgan Edwards served as co-chairs of the 12-member Advisory Committee from on and off campus. Outreach Events Coordinator Brittney Mitchell led the School’s planning efforts.

“The insightful discussions and dialogue at our conference reassured me that there is common ground across the political spectrum,” says Nemet, a lead author of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report. “We need to make decisions that are durable and policies that survive over time and work for most people.”

The Communications and Youth Mobilization panel discussion was among the most popular at the policy forum.

“I was especially inspired by our panel of youth climate activists,” said Edwards. “Young people, including students right here at UW–Madison, are elevating the climate crisis in policy conversations at all levels of government. Our panelists underscored the importance of listening to different perspectives and creating solutions together.”

In addition to opening keynote speaker Katharine Wilkinson, the La Follette School welcomed UW–Madison alumna Kathryn (Katy) Huff as the closing keynote speaker. Huff, who received her doctorate in nuclear engineering in 2013, is acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

Wilkinson cofounded and leads The All We Can Save Project with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, in support of women leading on climate. She also cohosts the podcast A Matter of Degrees, telling stories for the climate curious with Leah Stokes.

Four La Follette School alumni also participated on panel discussions along with several key elected and appointed state officials and many notable speakers who brought a diverse range of perspectives to the session topics.

The La Follette School’s third policy forum—American Prosperity, Power, and Democracy—is May 4, 2022, in Madison. Professor Mark Copelovitch is chairing the Advisory Committee. Details, including a form to sign up for updates, are online.