Regunberg joins national effort to call for climate justice at Paris Climate Conference

Rep. Aaron Regunberg has joined 350 elected officials from 46 states calling for the United States to commit to using 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 in an initiative launched at the Paris Climate Conference.

The announcement, made in an open letter to President Barack Obama, focused on the success state and local governments are achieving in clean energy innovation and implementation.

Representative Regunberg has been active in organizing the Energize RI coalition (http://www.energizeri.org/) to push for carbon-pricing legislation, which he plans to introduce in the legislative session that begins Jan. 5.

“Our planet and our civilization cannot afford to wait to take ambitious action on climate change. We are already seeing the impact of increasingly severe and strange weather here in Rhode Island — from our tanking lobster industry to the damage of Hurricane Sandy throughout South County. Moreover, the transition to clean energy presents an incredible economic opportunity for our state. Renewable energy is increasingly available, affordable and practical, and it can be produced locally, strengthening our economy and creating jobs in Rhode Island. The United States has everything to gain by being a world leader in committing to a future of clean energy, and we owe it to future generations to take urgent action to get us there,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence).

A number of current and former elected officials are organizing the initiative including former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, former Caroline New York Councilmember and Deputy Town Supervisor Dominic Frongillo, and California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz. Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa also signed the letter.

“We organized this initiative to highlight the important work state and local governments are doing to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution, despite many in Congress’ complete lack of leadership to protect our families and communities,” said Cornell du Houx. “We need to protect our nation and the world from the real threats caused by climate change. A recent Pew study found ISIL or Daesh and climate change are seen as the top two global threats and the two are interlinked. As a former Marine and now naval officer, I have seen this link firsthand. Instability caused by extreme weather helps terrorists like Daesh recruit fighters — Syria suffered an unusually severe drought that helped trigger the conflict.”

“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 Frongillo. “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.”

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) — of which Rhode Island is a part — 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 a more-than-40-percent reduction in power sector carbon pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown 8 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 Katz.

The initiative also supports the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, as it will bring the United States within 7 percent of the stated goal.

“We appreciate the administration’s leadership and commitment to working with state and local government,” said du Houx. “The launch of this letter is only the beginning. 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.”