Op-ed by State Rep. Mark Cardenas
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following today’s introduction of Climate Emergency Declaration resolutions by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, more than 450 mayors, state representatives, and elected officials from 40 states called for a nationwide Climate Emergency Plan to phase out the production and use of fossil fuels and to ramp up renewable energy as part of a green new deal approach to energy and efficiency.
“Climate change is the most serious threat to the future of humanity, and we have failed to respond with the urgency needed,” said John Marty, State Senator in Minnesota. “It’s time for a strong, consistent, and aggressive response in order to become a 100% fossil fuel-free society.”
Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) is a growing initiative of state representatives, mayors, county supervisors, and city council members from across the nation that are demanding a national climate emergency plan and an end to the use of dirty fossil fuels that harm their communities.
“There is no single more important issue than addressing climate change for our municipality, nation, and planet, period,” said Melanie Bagby, Mayor of Cloverdale, California. “This is a global emergency.”
More than 740 jurisdictions in 16 countries have declared a climate emergency. Populations covered by jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency amount to 136 million people. In June, New York City declared a climate emergency. Los Angeles City Council, whose climate emergency legislation in 2018 launched an avalanche of climate emergency declarations, has voted to create and fund the world’s first Climate Emergency Mobilization Department (CEMD) and a Climate Emergency Commission to oversee it, comprised of communities on the frontlines of climate change and workers impacted by climate action.
“The tide is turning and the people of the planet are finally waking up to the true — and staggering — realities of the climate emergency and what we need to do about it,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, the author of the CEMD legislation, “We believe the CEMD can be the mechanism by which LA’s version of a truly just and equitable Green New Deal can be implemented at the speed and scale required, and a vital regional mobilization on climate action launched.”
“The New York City Council has taken bold steps to address our climate crisis, and I was proud to vote in favor of the Climate Mobilization Act,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. “Now, we need the federal government to follow our lead and declare a national climate emergency and take the action necessary to protect our city and nation from devastating climate change.”
In light of unprecedented devastation from wildfires in California, destructive hurricanes in North Carolina to Puerto Rico to Hawaii, droughts, and extreme weather throughout the US, the elected officials are urging their peer elected officials across the nation to end permitting for new fossil fuel projects and phase out oil and gas production within a 2,500-foot buffer zone of vulnerable communities, halt public investments and subsidies of fossil fuels, and move swiftly to 100% clean energy.
“Scientific studies overwhelmingly agree on the terrible consequences that climate change will produce if we don’t drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Michael Yantachka, Vermont State Representative. “We can’t wait any longer to take action that should have been taken a decade ago. The time is now.”
Drafted by state and local elected officials from across the country at the Global Action Climate Summit in San Francisco in September and launched at the United Nations climate talks in Poland, the national letter cites the increasingly serious local impacts of climate change and harm to public health throughout America from the production and burning of fossil fuels, including pollution, water contamination, leaks, explosions and other dangers.
“It’s time to end the era of fossil fuel production and build our clean energy future together,” said Maryland State Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk.
More than 240 California elected officials signed a letter in June declaring climate change an emergency and urging Governor Gavin Newsom to end permitting for new oil and gas production.
“The most important job of local leaders is to keep their communities safe,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells, Mayor of Culver City, California. “The only way we can ensure the health and safety of our constituents is to end fossil fuel production in our communities, and transition to a just, clean, sustainable future.”
The Universal Ecological Fund report has found that climate change is already costing the U.S. economy $240 billion annually from storms, droughts, fires, and sea level rise cost their communities.
“North Dakota is the breadbasket of the world,” said Tim Mathern, North Dakota State Senator. “I don’t want climate change to make it the great American desert.”
The impacts of climate change threaten public safety in communities across the nation, particularly in low-income communities. Vulnerable communities will see an increase in poor air quality, infectious disease, and a decrease in food safety which will exacerbate social inequalities.
“As a military veteran of the wars in the Middle East, the climate crisis is about more than increasing temperatures and natural disasters,” said Tim Goodrich, Councilmember in Torrance, California said. “It’s also a threat to our national security.”
By 2090, a scenario of uncontrolled emissions will cause temperature related health impacts of $140 billion annually and $160 billion in lost wages. Outbreaks of infectious diseases like West Nile could even result in a $3.3 billion increase in annual hospitalization costs by 2100.
“Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country because we are at the end of the ‘tailpipe’ of the nation,” said Samantha Paradis, Mayor of Belfast, Maine. “We need bold climate leadership to protect the health of the public, the economy, and our beautiful landscape.”
The officials are calling for supporting and retraining fossil fuel energy workers in the clean energy economy and ensuring investment in good, family-supporting jobs in renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal. These will lead to more sustainable, long-term employment and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
“We must protect our planet through actions big and small to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. There is no greater imperative,” said Catherine Blakespear, Mayor of Encinitas, California. “We have the technology to thrive and prosper without oil and gas drilling but we need the will to make it happen.”
The statements build on a letter from more than 250 elected officials from a majority of counties in California in 2018 urging Governor Jerry Brown to phase out fossil fuel production in the state. The letter contributed to Governor Brown signing bill SB 100 into law, requiring California’s electricity to come from 100% renewable sources by 2045.
“We should all be alarmed at the increase in carbon emissions and rapid rate of climate change posing an imminent existential threat to all living things on our planet. We must act quickly, boldly, and decisively to address this critical threat,” said Marina Khubesrian, Mayor of South Pasadena, California. “This includes how we power our cars, homes, and factories for starters.”
New York State passed a bill in June requiring the state achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Federal, state and local elected officials have a moral obligation to support efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said Nicola Armacost, Mayor, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. “We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and the generations to come.”
Worldwide, communities are demanding their elected officials take decisive action to address the climate emergency and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Protesters chanting “climate leaders don’t frack or drill oil” blockaded the Global Climate Action Summit that then-Governor Brown and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg convened in September 2018.
“By committing to this effort jurisdiction by jurisdiction, starting today, we will make a real difference,” said Michael Dembrow, Oregon State Senator.
The full letter and list of signatories are available at https://protectingamerica.net/letter/
The National Climate Assessment released November 2018 projects that economic damages from climate change could lead to annual losses of $100 billion in various economic sectors. By the end of the century, current rates of warming will cost the US economy $500 billion a year in crop damage, labor losses, and damage from increasingly extreme weather — double the economic consequence of the Great Recession. The Assessment predicts economic losses will exceed the GDP of many states.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on October 8th warns that to maintain global temperature rise below 1.5℃, far-reaching and unprecedented changes must be made in all aspects of society, including halting the production and burning of fossil fuels. Human CO2 emissions need to fall 45% by 2030.
July 9, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, Elected Officials to Protect America Cell: 207.319.4511