Back in the dog days of 2010, when it became clear that Congress wouldn't be passing a climate bill, many people were frustrated and disappointed, including me. But as I wrote in Sierra magazine at the time, Congress's failure to act didn't mean we couldn't keep making progress on climate disruption. Lots of good things have been happening -- nationally, at the state level, and in our cities.
Last week, the mayors of our two largest cities showed exactly what I'm talking about.
I was honored to be invited to speak briefly at an event with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters and the Regional Plan Association in New York City to discuss the city's future after superstorm Sandy. Very few individuals are in Mayor Bloomberg's league when it comes to taking real, substantial action on climate disruption. Recall that during the last election it wasn't either of the candidates who brought climate to the forefront as an issue -- it was Mayor Bloomberg.
During last week's event, the mayor announced far-reaching plans for making New York City both better prepared for and more resilient to extreme weather events like Sandy. At the same time, he reiterated his strong support for moving beyond coal and promoting both clean energy and energy efficiency. It's been five years since the mayor announced PlaNYC -- a green-building initiative that is one of the most ambitious and successful climate action plans in the country. But New York is not the only city taking action. Mayor Bloomberg also currently serves as the chair for the C40, a group of more than 60 large cities across the globe that are working to reduce their carbon emissions. One out of every twelve people on the planet lives in a C40 city.
America's second largest city is also a member of the C40. Its mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, has set a goal of eliminating its use of coal power by 2020, while simultaneously increasing renewable energy to 40 percent . In keeping with that objective, yesterday the mayor announced that L.A. would commit to buying all of the energy produced by a major solar plant on the reservation of the Moapa Band of Paiutes in southern Nevada. The contracts are for enough energy to power 105,000 homes.
This is not only a big step forward for Los Angeles, which has been getting nearly 40 percent of its power from aging, out-of-state coal plants, but also good news for the Moapas, who have suffered far more than their share of the ill effects of coal power. Nevada's Reid-Gardner coal plant is practically in their backyard.
As Mary Anne Hitt, the directory of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, wrote:
This Moapa Solar project is one of two long-term solar purchasing agreements that, along with the CLEAN LA feed-in-tariff solar program, are designed to replace power from Arizona's Navajo Generating Station coal plant and put Los Angeles on a firm path to replace its use of coal with clean energy alternatives - energy efficiency, solar, wind, and geothermal.
In the long run -- and we're all in it for the long run -- no single "silver bullet" will solve the climate crisis. The good news, though, is that we have a clear objective to keep in our sights. All we need to do is keep moving away from dirty fuels and toward clean energy and sustainable transportation. How we do that is limited only by our imagination, our passion, and our resolve. All of those were on display in New York and Los Angeles last week.
You can see what's happening across the country on our Climate Comes Home "This Is What Change Looks Like" map. Check it out -- you can even add what's happening in your own city, neighborhood, school, business, or home.