America’s coastal states are emerging out of a brutal hurricane season made worse from the pandemic. Both disasters have been caused by human disregard for the planet and greed.North Carolina, New Jersey, and California, along with most of the nation, are also reckoning with pervasive racial injustice, brought into the light by peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. Studies blatantly show this injustice, as communities of color have had the highest contraction and death rates from COVID-19. They also suffer from COVID-19 hospitalization rates that are four to six times worse than White communities.
Urgent action combating climate change, and systemic change that addresses racial inequalities, has to happen. That’s why Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) urges President-elect Biden to prioritize a National Climate Plan that will be just for all, and employs hundreds of thousands transitioning America to a clean energy economy.
The Center for American Progress’ recent report illuminates a path forward for North Carolinians to build a just future. In Culver City, California, a groundbreaking energy transition is already underway. Elected officials from across New Jersey are fighting for an innovative new initiative to revitalize transportation infrastructure and rescue public health.
These state-level actions match the mandate for bold action contained within the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis’s recent report. The former report, weaves together the testimony of labor unions, Native communities, mayors and constituents from across the country, and shows a way towards actively building a better world with ten million jobs and net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
While the current administration has opposed clean energy development and denies the realities of climate change, President-elect Joe Biden released The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice. In the plan, President-elect Biden promises to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord immediately and sets the goal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. At the same time, the composition of the Senate is still unclear.
“President-elect Biden will need support to create climate solutions from elected officials across the country,” said Elected Officials to Protect America President, former Marine combat veteran, and State Legislator Alex Cornell du Houx. “Climate disasters are happening now and are making the pandemic even more deadly. Our communities and the world deserve urgent action. EOPA’s Climate Emergency Letter will support the President-elect to enact a National Climate Plan.”rve urgent action, our letter will support him to enact a National Climate Plan.”
EOPA’s online letter to President-elect Biden and Congress for a National Emergency Climate Plan has already been signed by over 130 elected officials from across the country.
The international community is sounding the alarm as well. The United Nations, in partnership with over 100 scientists, academics, and economists, released its own roadmap to U.S. net-zero emissions by 2050, one which would only cost one half of one percent of our GDP. That’s only half of one percent — for countless benefits to our health, economy, and social fabric, and to avoid untold devastation.
On both the national and state levels, the climate crisis’ impacts are so glaring that it can no longer be ignored. In rural North Carolina, heat illness is on the rise, with disproportionate effects devastating at-risk communities, especially farmworkers and those living in mobile homes. The threat multiplier of the climate crisis exacerbates existing social vulnerabilities such as access to adequate housing, medical care, and funds enough not to worry about the cost of cooling. What was once thought as a predominantly urban problem is reaching into the heart of every community, and its consequences can be deadly.
Heatwaves are responsible for the most deaths caused by weather-related events in the U. S., and the number of heatwaves that occur is projected to only increase as climate change worsens.
In California, apocalyptic wildfires have brought the climate crisis front and center, with over 4 million acres torched by this extraordinarily brutal season and thousands displaced or losing their homes to the blazes. While Governor Gavin Newsom has begun to transition the state rapidly to electric vehicles, over 315 state and local elected officials demand bolder action.
Ventura County, a participant in the Clean Power Alliance, has stepped up to protect their citizens from hazardous oil and gas wells. In September Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to pass the 2,500-foot safety buffer for schools and study increasing setbacks to 2,500-foot from all sensitive receptors by 2022.
“Our hard working, immigrant and Latino community defied the odds and said no to allowing obsolete fossil fuel power plants on it’s once abused coastline Because we said no to the natural gas-fired power plant on our ocean, now will have a hundred-megawatt clean energy storage facility. It will replace much of what the rejected Puente Power Plant at the Mandalay Generating Station power plant proposal offered,” said Carmen Ramirez Esq., current Oxnard Mayor Pro-Tem and Ventura County Supervisor-elect, EOPA-California Leadership Council Co-Chair. “President-elect Biden, we are asking you to use your leadership to move our country to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We have the technology; we only need to provide incentives. This is where the great new jobs are. This is where our prosperity is, where our future is. Please step up, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and bring our country together with a National Climate Plan.”
Culver City, California has also taken bold actions, under the leadership of Meghan Sahli-Wells former Mayor, current Councilmember and EOPA-California Leadership Council Co-Chair.
“The fossil fuel industry keeps giving us this false choice between the economy and a healthy environment. Here in Culver City, we’re proving that just isn’t true.” said Meghan Sahli-Wells former Mayor, current Councilmember and EOPA-California Leadership Council Co-Chair. “We’re phasing out fossil fuels, we’ve already transitioned to 100 percent clean renewable energy, and in the process we’re creating good, healthy, sustainable union jobs. Together, we’re creating, not the energy future, but the energy present that we need to power and protect our community.”
Across the country in New Jersey, residents are echoing experts’ calls for systemic change and ingenuity, with over 70 percent supporting the new Transportation and Climate Initiative that EOPA’s New Jersey program is fighting to see become a reality. TCI would electrify cars, trucks and busses transforming the region’s transportation sector, to cut greenhouse gas pollution and rescue public health.
Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick has seen firsthand the ways inaction can strand vulnerable coastal communities. It’s a major reason why she’s joined EOPA’s New Jersey Leadership Council to encourage Governor Murphy to sign on to TCI.
“Atlantic County deals with road-blocking flooding on a monthly basis. We have to time our commutes around the tide. That’s not normal, and it can’t go on,” said Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick. “It’s essential to have the resources we need to protect and improve our infrastructure so that we can continue to grow and thrive. TCI can generate that necessary revenue and transform our state’s future. Beyond that, we’ll need a National Climate Plan which I urge President-elect Biden and Congress to enact.”
The Center for American Progress’ report highlights six concrete strategies that combine essential work towards equity with innovative green policies, including prioritizing equitable housing policies and just community development, accelerating cleanup of toxic sites and flood mitigation, providing equitable access to clean and affordable energy and supporting a just transition to clean energy.
“State leaders can make progress toward addressing climate change while advancing economic, racial, and environmental justice in communities across the state,” said Cathleen Kelly, senior fellow for Energy and Environment at CAP and co-author of the Center for American Progress report. “These and other policies must be implemented without delay to protect the public health and safety of all people living in the state and to support rapid movement toward a just, inclusive, and pollution-free energy future.”
In North Carolina, Danielle Adams, Durham County Soil and Water Supervisor, sees urgency and opportunity in changing long-entrenched and outdated systems for the better instead of just waiting to deal with the impacts. Heat illness, the consequences of industrial agriculture, and flooding are just some of the challenges she and her district face, and they’re only worsening with time.
“As a board supervisor, who’s responsible for disseminating disaster relief funds — I don’t want that to be my job. I hate that that’s my job. I would rather we spend money, use our technical expertise and the experience of our staff to go out there and prepare low-income minority communities to shift away from big factory farms and hog farms,” said Danielle Adams, Former Durham County Soil and Water Supervisor, EOPA Leadership Council. “We have to explore ways to cultivate resilience.”
Governor Cooper’sClean Energy Plan and theNorth Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan promise meaningful action that improves North Carolina’s triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. This action is also a deeply necessary step towards rectifying the past serious harms visited upon the vulnerable communities of this state.
North Carolina already leads the region in clean energy, ranking #3 in the SELC’s assessment of solar. They aren’t alone in the rapid steps they’ve taken. Because of leadership by state and local governments, 1 in 3 Americans now live in a state or city that is committed to 100 percent clean electricity.
The path forward is innovative design and investment that prioritizes a just and livable future alongside economic well-being. Local action, though powerful, is not enough.
It will take a national commitment to do what is just and what is necessary. America must phase out fossil fuels on the most ambitious timeline possible.
Supervisor of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District, Jenna Wadsworth represents 1.2 million North Carolinians. She recently ran in a statewide election to become Commissioner of Agriculture, on a platform dedicated to addressing climate change. While she lost her bid, she had the courage to take on industries that will continue to put agriculture at risk from devastating floods and pollution.
“The race was about ushering in new ideas, transformative opportunities and solutions to support our family farmers, to strengthen our rural communities, to protect our environment and to deliver on our promises to our children,” said Vice-Chair of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, Jenna Wadsworth. “I know that the plans laid out by President-elect Joe Biden are our best chances to save our agricultural industry in both Western North Carolina and across the state as a whole. We’ll have an opportunity to address the root cause of many of the problems that our agricultural community face.”
EOPA calls on President-elect Biden and Congress to, as their campaign slogan said, “build back better” by transitioning America off fossil fuels immediately to become a clean energy economy.
More about EOPA: As current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change, EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Our veterans who are lawmakers helped get the Land and Water Conservation Fund funded in perpetuity. In New York we successfully helped ban fracking. In 2018 over 410 elected officials have signed ourNational Climate Justice Letter demanding a just transition to a clean energy economy.
December 15, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, Elected Officials to Protect America Cell: 207.319.4511