By many measures, our climate outlook here in the United States is grim. Our president denies the settled science of climate change. Our natural monuments are being pillaged for oil and gas. And a coal lobbyist now heads the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal entity charged with protecting our health, not endangering it.
Despite these challenges – and they are significant – I’m optimistic. These regressive actions at the federal level have emboldened local leaders to speak out and act up. Whether a mayor or a governor, a CEO or a community organizer, New England’s leaders recognize that we need bold action now to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and protect our communities from the devastating effects of climate change.
But we need to ramp up. It is no longer enough to make speeches and announce goals that can’t be enforced. It is time to commit to legally binding mandates that will move the needle on climate. It is time to turn paper pledges into meaningful action.
That’s why I am joining local leaders from across the country and around the Globe for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California. For the next three days, we’ll be trading ideas, sharing success stories, and, ideally, walking away having inspired deeper commitments from those attending, and those watching from afar.
New England Leads the Northeast on Climate
New England is already on its way to reducing climate-damaging emissions. With CLF and our partners leading the way, we’ve advanced groundbreaking climate action. This includes the nation’s first region-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce harmful carbon emissions, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This program has already reduced emissions in the region by more than 40 percent since it was implemented.
We also wrote and defended one of the strongest climate laws in the country, the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. This law – which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has stood behind twice now – mandates enforceable, economy-wide, declining greenhouse gas emissions. It mandates an 80 percent reduction by 2050, and has already accelerated major increases in renewable energy procurements throughout the region.
We’ve also brought climate accountability litigation against Exxon Mobil and Shell for climate risks at their waterfront facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These lawsuits use extensive climate research to establish and enforce a duty for these corporations to address current and imminent climate risks. (Because even as we work to tamp down our climate-damaging emissions, we have to address the climate impacts – such as severe storms and hurricanes – that we know are coming.)
Despite poor federal leadership and stubborn Republican Governors, New England has achieved some major successes on climate and public health. Now, we have an opportunity to carry the spirit of the Global Climate Action Summit and push even harder in New England.
Only Bold Action Now Will Help Fight Climate Change
There’s no denying that we have our work cut out for us. We’re facing steep opposition as we fight for clean air and clean energy across New England. Emissions are on the rise in Vermont, and despite its Global Warming Solutions Act, Massachusetts is not on track to reach its goals. We need to step it up.
We need to stop ignoring the transportation sector – the largest single source of emissions in New England. We need to fight for better efficiency standards for buildings so we waste less energy. We need to revamp our recycling programs so we throw away less trash. We need to commit to no new natural gas plants or pipelines, period. We need to put our foot down on climate pollution.
New England – along with the rest of the United States – needs more strong climate laws on the books. Our states need to get serious and do more than pay lip service to protecting families and businesses against the catastrophic damage of climate change.
Conservation in Action: The Global Climate Action Summit
This summit is our chance for local, regional, and state leaders to make real commitments to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and pushing beyond the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. For over 50 years CLF has faced these challenges head on. We’re ready to lead New England in kicking our fossil fuel addition and avoiding climate catastrophe. And we’re ready to be joined by the rest of the United States in large scale, local action against climate change.