Governor Sununu Abandons Granite State on Climate

Melissa Birchard

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu says he stands by President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Adopted in 2015 by every nation other than Syria and Nicaragua, the historic climate accord sets non-binding carbon emission reduction goals for each country to meet by their own means.

The accord’s objective is to avert the worst effects of climate change, like losing cities and towns to inundation by water, superstorms that take more and more human lives, and increased asthma attacks that send our children to the ER. When asked about the accord, Sununu says it is not his job to be concerned with it.

He’s wrong.

Local Action Pledged to Counteract Federal Inaction

In response to President Trump’s irresponsible decision to exit the Paris climate accord, states, towns, businesses, and schools across the nation have begun to announce that they won’t sit idly by – that they’ll take their own action to reduce carbon emissions in line with the goals set out in the accord.

Here in New Hampshire, Portsmouth and Nashua recently joined a list of over 270 U.S. cities committing to the goals of the Paris accord. Dartmouth College and a number of private corporations have made similar commitments.

Perhaps most exciting, a bipartisan group of states have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, committing to help cut carbon emissions to the same levels under the Paris accord within their own borders. The Alliance currently includes 12 states – including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont – plus Puerto Rico. Collectively, they represent nearly 20 percent of our nation’s carbon emissions.

Like the Granite State, Massachusetts and Vermont have Republican governors. Where, then, is New Hampshire?

The unfortunate answer is: nowhere to be seen.

Fighting Back against Attempts to Bring Back the Dark Age of Dirty Fuels

Governor Sununu has announced that, as of now, he has no intention of joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. The governor is not only standing by Trump’s reckless decision to exit the Paris accord, he also appears content to leave New Hampshire on the sidelines while other states join forces to forge solutions and create new economic opportunities. It’s a troubling position that suggests Governor Sununu may not have what it takes to stand up to the climate-science deniers in his family and his political party.

Indeed, groups backed by the oil-rich Koch brothers and other climate-science deniers seem to have an open door to influence New Hampshire laws and policies. Already this year, organizations that reject climate science like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Josiah Bartlett Institute (JBI), as well as Governor Sununu’s own denialist brother, Michael Sununu, have tried to push Granite Staters back into the dark ages by pulling out of or diverting funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (the regional pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions); gutting the Renewable Portfolio Standard that ensures a portion of our energy mix is clean; and slashing compensation for rooftop solar panel owners.

We fought those battles and won – for now – but the fight isn’t over.

Sununu’s Evasion Tactics Put New Hampshire at Risk

During last year’s gubernatorial campaign, then-candidate Sununu evaded questions about climate change, claiming in a debate that the cause of climate change isn’t clear. To this day, when asked about climate change, he cites his environmental engineering degree from MIT, but doesn’t tell us what his position is or what his plans are for New Hampshire.

Most recently, he has said that cleaning up groundwater is a higher priority for him than addressing climate change. But this is a wholly unsatisfactory position both in light of his recent request to EPA Administrator Pruitt to consider weakening stormwater pollution regulations – and given that we here in New Hampshire are fully capable of tackling more than one issue at a time.

The bottom line is, all the evidence indicates Governor Sununu doesn’t have our backs on climate change. At a time when New Hampshire should be leading in the transition to a modern, low-carbon economy, when other governors on both sides of the aisle are taking up that challenge, and when a large majority of Americans believe the states need to act on climate change in the absence of federal leadership, this can’t be dismissed as a low priority or relegated to a mere partisan issue.

Take Action

Call Governor Sununu’s office at 603.271.2121. Urge him to make a public statement acknowledging that climate change is a real and present danger. Ask him to take action, starting with joining the U.S. Climate Alliance.

 

 

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