According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average global temperature in September was 1.75 degrees above the 20th-century average. 2020 is on track to be the hottest year on record. This rapid warming is driven primarily by human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
The concurrent crises of climate change, COVID-19, mass unemployment, and racial justice uprisings have forced the nation to reckon with the status quo. Some want to return to “normal,” others wish to right the wrongs and build a better, more equitable world.
“We can either throw away money on the fossil fuels of the past. That is the road to more pollution, or we can invest in the technologies of the future, renewable energy, nature-based solutions, sustainable transport and green technologies . . . only one of these paths is rational,” wrote UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in an oped.
Last August over 100 leading economists signed a letter published in the Guardian urging world leaders to rebuild after the pandemic in an equitable, sustainable way free of the carbon economy. “From deep-rooted racism to the Covid-19 pandemic, from extreme inequality to ecological collapse, our world is facing dire and deeply interconnected emergencies . . . ,” wrote the economists. “As we seek to rebuild our world, we can and must end the carbon economy.”
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Robert B. Reich, Clair Brown, and other economists stood up to the fossil fuel industry. Elected Officials to Protect America stands with them.
“By achieving a large-scale economic transformation that dismantles the carbon economy and brings about a greener world, we have an opportunity to begin the process of economic recovery while working to undo the injustices at the heart of our modern system,” said Economics Professor Clair Brown Ph.D., of the University of Berkeley. “We call on our policymakers to recognize the role that meaningful climate action has to play in rebuilding our world—to recognize that a healthy economy and society require a healthy planet.”
Two thirds of Americans believe current steps to combat climate change and protect our lands and waters are insufficient.
Elected Officials to Protect America is calling on the president and Congress to enact a national Climate Emergency Plan to address the climate crisis.
“The next president will have to act swiftly and decisively. He should declare a Climate Emergency under the National Emergencies Act. We need to transition to, and invest in, 100 percent clean energy, develop a smart energy grid and divest and phase out fossil fuels. We need investments in communities harmed by environmental injustice. And it is vital to create quality jobs for people whose employment won’t be coming back because of the pandemic and those hit hardest by racial injustice,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, a former Maine state lawmaker, Marine combat veteran, and President of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA). “EOPA’s goal is a science-based national climate emergency plan based on the shared principles in the Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report.”
The Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report is a roadmap for how to build a clean energy economy that values workers and creates jobs, advances economic and environmental justice, while meeting the challenges of the climate crisis.
Back in 2018 over 410 elected officials signed EOPA’s National Climate Justice Letter recognized these truths, and demanded a just transition to clean energy economy.
“It’s time to end public subsidies for dirty fossil fuel corporations, and instead invest in clean energy technologies, infrastructure, and jobs training, so we can transition to a safer and more equitable future,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells Co-Chair of Elected Officials to Protect California, former Culver City Mayor, and current Councilmember. “We know it’s possible to transition to 100 percent clean energy: we’ve already done it in Culver City. As a member of the Clean Power Alliance, we’re creating good union jobs to power our community and over 30 other cities, plus the county of Los Angeles and Ventura County, serving over 3 million people. We’re also phasing out oil drilling in the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the United States. We’re proving that you don’t have to choose between public health or the economy: we’re supporting good jobs and a healthy environment.”
A clean energy economy would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in America. According to a 2019 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation.
A study from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) found that “clean-energy investments generate roughly three times more jobs than an equivalent amount of money spent on carbon-based fuels.” In 2018, renewable energy employment accounted for 4.2 percent of all jobs added nationally, and that same year the industry’s employment grew 3.6 percent.
Returning back to a carbon-based economy would threaten millions of people and financial markets. A 2019 U.S. House Committee on the Budget report projected rising temperatures will result in massive increases in damages from extreme weather, declines in crop yields, increases in mortality rates, rising electricity demands, lost manual intensive working hours, and crime rising.
“Managing Climate Risk in the Financial System,” a report commissioned by federal regulators overseeing the nation’s commodities markets concluded that climate change threatens U.S. financial markets, as the costs of wildfires, droughts, storms, and floods spread through pension funds, insurance and mortgage markets, and other financial institutions. “A world wracked by frequent and devastating shocks from climate change cannot sustain the fundamental conditions supporting our financial system,” concluded the report which was requested last year by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Despite the government’s own reports, the fossil fuel industry received $1.9 billion in public bailouts, yet these companies are the drivers of climate change. The economist’s letter called for “institutions of financial power” to end their fossil fuel investments and funding.
According to a report released in March by climate advocacy groups, 35 global banks have collectively poured more than $2.7 trillion into the fossil fuel industry since the Paris climate agreement was finalized in late 2015. The four top spots were all held by U.S. institutions: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America.
This month, Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a pair of bills that aim to “protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos” by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels. EOPA applauds his actions.
“Sen. Merkley is showing the way. The carbon economy amplifies racial, social and economic inequities. It is no accident that Covid-19 is disproportionately hurting communities of color, low-income, and the most vulnerable. The marginalized need elected officials to stand up for them,” said New York Assistant Speaker Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, EOPA Council Member, Army Veteran (Ret). “New York enacted our nation’s most ambitious actionable plan to mitigate the climate crisis. But in order for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to succeed, we need to shift investment capital away from fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energy sources. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, making its way through our legislature, would divest our pension fund. It’s irresponsible to continue to invest in the industry that is fueling the climate crisis and perpetuating injustices.”
Over 1,200 institutions have already divested more than $14.6 trillion from fossil fuels. 1,760 jurisdictions in 30 countries have declared a climate emergency, representing more than 820 million people.
Crop failures, droughts, rising tides, wildfires, extreme weather, forced migration and conflicts have increased because of a warming world brought on by fossil fuels. A Center for Naval Analyses’ report explained how water insecurity emboldens violent extremist organizations and places stable governments at risk.
“Climate change is a threat multiplier. If we fail now to address climate change, we fail the world, and our armed forces will be put at higher risk,” said Oregon State Representative Major Paul L. Evans USAF (Ret.), EOPA Co-Chair. “The pandemic has exposed our inequities, our societal failings, systemic institutional racism and antiquated unjust laws. It also has shown us the spirit of the American people as they protest peacefully, demanding change. As lawmakers it is our duty to listen and take action. This is an unique opportunity to build back with equity. To ensure we finally live up to ‘liberty and justice for all.’”
Covid-19 may only be the beginning in a new era of global pandemics, warns a new study led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ foremost leading expert on infectious diseases. It’s the latest research to make such a conclusion as scientists increasingly believe climate change and the ways humans use land exacerbate the conditions that make such diseases more common
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that if human activities continue to encroach into wild places more pandemics are inevitable. “If we fail to act now, the present moment may merely be a preview of what is to come,” wrote the economists.
The mission of EOPA: To create a safe, prosperous, and healthy planet, we empower leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to protect our environment, and fight the climate crisis. 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, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Lawmakers who are veterans and elected officials lead our mission.
October 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alexander Cornell du Houx, Elected Officials to Protect America Cell: 207.319.4511