Bruce Nilles

Executive Director, Climate Imperative

We in the United States have a tremendous opportunity, and I would say a responsibility. We sit on the largest coal reserves in the world. We have 25 percent of all the coal in the entire globe. Much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also from us over the last hundred years.

Bruce Nilles is Executive Director of Climate Imperative. For the two years prior to joining Climate Imperative, Bruce was Managing Director at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) where he designed and launched the Building Electrification Campaign, which aims to eliminate fossil fuels from 70 million buildings. In that role, he supported the City of Berkeley when it enacted the first ban on natural gas in new buildings, which rapidly spread to 26 other cities across California.

Before joining RMI, Bruce spent 15 years building and leading the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, a nationwide effort to replace coal plants with clean energy. Over a seven-year period the campaign stopped nearly 90 percent of proposed new coal plants and played a leading role in retiring half of all existing coal plants. During that span, he also raised $250 million to fund the campaign, and also provided strategic guidance to European allies to help them develop and launch a European Beyond Coal Campaign in 2017.

Prior to Sierra Club, Bruce was a staff attorney for Earthjustice, where he built a coalition of medical and environmental justice organizations focused on improving air quality in California’s Central Valley and argued federal court cases that led to stronger clean air regulations. Bruce spent the first four years of his career at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division where he prosecuted the first federal cases targeting landlords who failed to protect children from the dangers of lead paint hazards, and later provided legal advice to agencies and Congressional staff on White House priorities related to enforcement of federal environmental laws.

Bruce is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2018 Packard Foundation Climate Breakthrough Award, and was recognized by Politico in 2015 as “one of the thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics.” He holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bruce currently resides in Oakland, California with his wife and two children and enjoys running among the redwoods whenever he can find the time.

Bruce Nilles's Simple Shift

I moved to California three months ago and, after four years of car-free living, I bought my first new car ever. I did a lot of shopping around about the electric choices, and I ended up on a plug-in Prius. To me, it still obviously has a fair amount of gasoline.

Live Event Appearances

Podcast Guest Appearances

Green Buildings: Cooking Without Gas

As we move towards a fossil fuel-free future, it’s become common for homeowners to install solar panels to provide themselves with emission-free electricity. But until recently, many of us may not have realized that some of our biggest fossil fuel uses are inside our homes – with the machines that heat and cool water and air, dry our clothes and cook our food.