3 Reasons to Still Be Hopeful About Community Climate Action

The events that have transpired over the past two weeks have left most in the climate community shocked. ecoAmerica’s President, Bob Perowitz, spoke to these concerns last week, and helped us all rethink our path moving forward. But with a new administration, congress, and agency leaders coming into power—the situation is at best, uncertain. While many are already writing off any chance to move climate progress forward under these challenging new circumstances, it is important to remember that despite setbacks, there is already bold climate action underway in our cities and communities.

As we move forward, climate action at home, in neighborhoods, and communities will continue to be the epicenters for positive, ambitious climate action. And there are three reasons for hope:

International Agreements

International agreements like the bilateral commitments between the United States and China, as well as the most recent COP 21 Paris agreements are now feared to be on the chopping block. However, these international accords specifically enlisted mayors and local leaders to enact climate policies and programs.

This is true especially for the COP 21 agreements. Worldwide, over 7,000 cities have already implemented bold climate action plans to meet the terms of the Paris agreements. Groups like the C40 and the Global Covenant of Mayors are now taking the lead. Cities represent 70% of global fossil fuel emissions, and by 2050 will be home to two-thirds of the global population—thus putting cities on the frontlines of climate action. Stepping up to lead and improve the lives of residents in their communities, mayors are already investing in infrastructure, renewable energy, and clean mass transportation systems.

“The agreement will unlock innovation and investment to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt to climate change. We are far from done, however.” – Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles

By acting at the city and local level, mayors and regional leaders are able to sidestep the hurdles that pervade international agreements.

Market Forces

Economic forces may be the greatest ally moving forward. Leaders in states, counties and cities are increasingly aware of the opportunities that renewables present to their communities.

These include cheaper energy bills for residents and businesses from renewables like solar and wind, the growth of stable, well paying jobs in clean energy—which now outnumber jobs in fossil fuel extraction. The economics of climate action is a powerful incentive, which increase paychecks as well as the quality of lives for residents.

To this end, 19 states across the country have already made heavy investments in renewables in order to transition their energy supply and to curb fossil fuel emissions. For instance, Nevada has helped to facilitate the development of 29 renewable energy projects, California and New York both have called for 50% of generation to come from renewables by 2030, and Massachusetts has seen solar capacity increase by 781% in just 10 years.

Local Action

With federal and international agreements less likely now than ever, it is important to empower local, city and regional leaders to implement bold climate action plans. And fortunately, many already are.

In California, this election saw the passage of statewide propositions to fund mass transportation developments, to invest in green spaces and parks, and to implement a plastic bag ban. These coupled with early commitments to explore making the transition to 100% clean energy in Los Angeles, illustrate tremendous progress and effective change at the local level.

“From new jobs, economic growth, better air, and a stable climate, this is a win-win for the residents and businesses of Salt Lake City as well as the rest of Utah.”  – Sarah Wright,  Executive Director for Utah Clean Energy

Leaders in Salt Lake City have long been working towards making their neighborhoods cleaner and greener. Under the leadership of Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City launched “Climate Positive,” an initiative committing the city to new clean energy standards and decreased fossil fuel emissions. The Mayor has also brought together business, nonprofits, educational institutions, and community organizations to identify ways of decreasing the city’s carbon footprint through a program called Utah Climate Action Network. These actions, coupled with commitments to make the city 100% reliant on clean energy illustrate how local action can succeed in bringing about meaningful change.

Now is the time for climate leaders to get to work. And many already are. By embracing and implementing international commitments, leveraging market forces to boost local economies while benefiting climate, and targeting action at the neighborhood, community and city level, leaders can be more effective than ever.

To accomplish these goals, leaders must arm themselves with the most effective and up to date resources. Communication guides, networking opportunities, and a shared community of committed climate actors will facilitate progress. So get to work, and join Path to Positive Communities today.

Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at stuart@ecoamerica.org.

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