SAN FRANCISCO -- Against the backdrop of a stark, partisan divide on U.S. climate action at the federal level, state and local officials shared stories of commonsense action on climate change in the Southeast.
“The conventional wisdom is that climate action is only happening in ‘blue states,’” said Andrea McGimsey, senior director of Global Warming Solutions for Environment America. “The reality is that states and localities in all regions recognize the problem and are bringing their communities into a clean energy future.”
As part of the Global Climate Action Summit this week, Environment America and its state affiliates in the Southeast convened a panel of state, local and business leaders from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia to share stories of climate progress and potential. The panel also came at a time when the region braces for the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Two speakers from North Carolina sent in statements to be read, as they needed to stay home with their families and communities.
Here are a few of the stories of climate progress from the event:
St. Petersburg, Florida is one of over 80 cities and towns across the country committed to 100 percent clean, renewable power.
“Florida is number one for climate impacts. We should be number one for climate solutions,” said Darden Rice, St. Petersburg City Councilmember. “That’s why I’m proud of our city’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.”
North Carolina, over the last decade, ranks third in the country for solar energy growth.
"Here in North Carolina, we are all too familiar with the dangerous and damaging effects of climate change,” said Sig Hutchinson, Vice Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Hutchinson had to skip the event to stay in Wake County to prepare for and deal with the effects of Hurricane Florence. “But between our abundance of solar and wind potential, to our world-class energy technology companies, to the talent coming out of our universities, our region stands ready to lead on clean energy solutions.”
Georgia ranks fourth nationally in the number of electric vehicles sold per registered vehicle, and eighth for solar energy growth. The city of Atlanta has also committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035.
“The potential to harness clean, renewable energy from the sun is virtually limitless,” said Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia. “We’re thrilled that cities, towns, businesses -- and yes, even airports, are seizing the mantle of climate leadership.”
Finally, Virginia is also taking significant strides towards a clean energy future, recently passing a sweeping energy bill which will result in significant increases in renewable resources and energy efficiency.
“Localities, regions and the state are making serious progress, yet not quickly enough,” said former Arlington Board Chairman and regional environmental leader Jay Fisette. “The military, which has a large presence in Virginia, is increasingly taking action on climate."
“Whether it’s increasingly severe hurricanes along our coasts or catastrophic droughts and wildfires out west, climate change is affecting our communities now, and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore,” concluded McGimsey. “States and cities across the country are taking this issue seriously, showing us the way forward, and inspiring us to think bigger and bolder.”