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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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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.