As a deal on climate change in Paris approaches, it is important to remember that this is only the first major step - we now need to successfully implement any agreement.
This is why I am working with a number of current and former elected officials to help ensure the U.S. continues to prosper from clean energy and reduce carbon pollution.
At the Paris Climate Conference we announced that over 350 U.S. state and local elected officials from 46 states signed a letter calling for 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz, California Senator President Pro Tempore Kevin De León, West Palm Beach, FL Mayor Jeri Muoio, and Des Moines, IA Mayor Frank Cownie speak at an international press conference promoting 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference.
We organized this initiative to highlight the important work state and local governments are doing to promote clean energy and combat climate change, despite many in Congress' complete lack of leadership to protect our families and communities.
The initiative was headlined in Paris by California Senator President Pro Tempore Kevin De León. California recently passed legislation to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and is the world's 7th largest economy.
"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."
Another example of state and local governments leading the way to a clean energy future came from Des Moines, Iowa Mayor Frank Cownie.
"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 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 United States and the world to aggressively commit to creating a better, clean energy future."
This is a necessary and achievable goal. The initiative supports the implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, as it will bring the U.S. within seven percent of the stated goal. With additional leadership at the federal, state, and local levels, our country will successfully reach the 50 percent by 2030 goal.
Clean energy is an American success story. It is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the United States and already provides 360,000 jobs. The solar industry alone employs 143,000 people--more individuals than work in coal mines -- and grew 20 percent in 2014. Last year a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.
"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 former Caroline New York Council member and Deputy Town Supervisor Dominic Frongillo, who helped organize the letter. "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 United States and the world. Now it's time to lead."
Former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, Des Moines, Iowa Mayor Frank Cownie, and Falcon Heights Minnesota Council member Beth Mercer-Taylor speak at an international press conference promoting 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference.
This year, the United States 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.
"We want the rest of the world to know that the climate-denying, anti-science voices in Congress do not represent America," said Nick Rathod, Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange, who works with lawmakers across the nation. Innovations at the state level often drive our national policy forward and that is exactly what is happening in the fight against climate change. States are leading the way."
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 over 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 California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz, who helped organize the letter.
"Cities and states and on the front lines of climate change. As sea levels rise, our city is in danger," said West Palm Beach, FL 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 launch of this letter is only the beginning and will continue to add signatures. 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.