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353 State Lawmakers From 46 States Support 100% Clean Energy by 2050

Climate

More than 350 U.S. state and local elected officials from nearly every state launched a letter calling for 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference today.

In Paris, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León was among those releasing the letter. California recently passed legislation to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and is the world’s 7th largest economy.

More than 350 U.S. state and local elected officials from nearly every state launched a letter calling for 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at COP21. Photo credit: Elected Officials to Protect America

“California’s example shows that climate action can be an engine for broadly shared economic prosperity,” said De León. “By promoting the development of clean energy resources, we are simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and creating jobs that can lift families out of poverty. If Congress won’t act, it’s incumbent on state and local leaders to do the job for them.”

The announcement focused on the success state and local governments are achieving in clean energy innovation and implementation.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently enacted a mandate that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York by 2030 come from renewable energy services and has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

New York Assembly person Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the nonpartisan New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators and was at the Paris talks, said, "Progress in Paris is critically important, but whatever the outcome of international negotiations, we know we have a real opportunity to chart a new course at home. The U.S. must take action to aggressively curb climate-changing pollution. As a country and in each of our states, we can move decisively toward clean renewable energy, which will create good jobs and foster prosperous, healthy communities today and for future generations."

“Our region used to be coal country and now is powered by 40 percent wind. That's the future that cities and states are creating,” said Des Moines, Iowa Mayor Frank Cownie. “Where there used to be 23 coal mines 100 years ago in and around the city, now we are building a green space corridor and new industries. It's time for cities, states, the U.S. and the world to aggressively commit to creating a better, clean energy future."

A number of current and former elected officials are organizing the initiative including former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, former Caroline New York Council member and Deputy Town Supervisor Dominic Frongillo and California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz. They are urging more elected officials to sign onto the letter at here.

“We organized this initiative to highlight the important work state and local governments are doing to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution, despite many in Congress’ complete lack of leadership to protect our families and communities,” said Cornell du Houx. “We need to protect our nation and the world from the real threats caused by climate change. A recent Pew study found ISIL or Daesh and climate change are seen as the top two global threats and the two are interlinked. As a former Marine and now naval officer, I have seen this link firsthand. Instability caused by extreme weather helps terrorists like Daesh recruit fighters—Syria suffered an unusually severe drought that helped trigger the conflict.”

“The political will to act on climate change exists in every state and community. But it's been drowned out by the millions of dollars dirty energy companies spend to sow doubt and denial,” said Frongillo. “The decades of deception are over: science is clear on the necessity to move off fossil fuels and Exxon-Mobil is under investigation for misleading shareholders and the American people. We need elected officials to lead a fair and swift transition to 100 percent clean energy. The transition to renewables can create jobs and prosperous opportunities across the U.S. and the world. Now it's time to lead.”

This year, the U.S. has hit many clean energy milestones. America has added more clean power than natural gas, with clean energy generation up 11 percent while natural gas generation declined. Demonstrating the opportunity, solar jobs grew 20 times faster than the rest of the economy.

The investment of New England Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) estimates a return of more than $2.9 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households and 17,800 businesses. In California, a similar program generated $969 million in revenue for the state through the end of 2014 and is expected to generate $2 billion a year or more in the future.

The RGGI states have experienced more than a 40 percent reduction in power sector carbon pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown eight percent. “This proves that we can reduce pollution that’s putting our communities’ health at risk while growing jobs and prosperity. From East Coast to West Coast—states and local communities are leading the way,” said Katz.

“Cities and states and on the front lines of climate change. As sea levels rise, our city is in danger,” said West Palm Beach, Florida Mayor Jeri Muoio. “To protect our future and lead by example, we have made a commitment to power all our city vehicles without fossil fuels.”

The initiative also supports the implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, as it will bring the U.S. within seven percent of the stated goal. “We appreciate the administration’s leadership and commitment to working with state and local government,” said Cornell du Houx. “The launch of this letter is only the beginning. We will be working with state and local elected officials across America to ensure a healthier and safer future for our children. As leaders responsible for America’s present and future prosperity, we must take action now.”

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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