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As Grassroots Momentum Surges, Over 300 Local Officials From 40 States Declare Support for Green New Deal

"We must protect our planet through actions big and small to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. There is no greater imperative."

"The only way we can ensure the health and safety of our constituents is to end fossil fuel production in our communities, and transition to a just, clean, sustainable future," declared Meghan Sahli-Wells, the vice Mayor of Culver City, California. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

With support for a Green New Deal growing rapidly at the grassroots, in Congress, and among potential 2020 presidential candidates, over 300 local elected officials from 40 states threw their support behind the bold proposal in an open letter released on Friday, declaring that it is "time to end the era of fossil fuel production and build our clean energy future together."

"The most important job of local leaders is to keep their communities safe," declared Meghan Sahli-Wells, the vice Mayor of Culver City, California and one of the officials who signed the letter. "The only way we can ensure the health and safety of our constituents is to end fossil fuel production in our communities, and transition to a just, clean, sustainable future."

By moving boldly and quickly to roll back fossil fuel production as part of a "comprehensive national plan such as a Green New Deal," the open letter states, "we will create millions of jobs and a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for all Americans now and in the future."

Read the full letter and list of signatories here.

The decision by dozens of mayors, state legislators, and city council members to back a Green New Deal comes as people in the United States and around the world are pressuring their leaders to abandon incremental approaches to the climate crisis and adopt ambitious policies that are in line with the latest science.

Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) October report—which said humanity must cut carbon emissions in half by 2040 to avert planetary catastrophe—the local officials' open letter urges political leaders to recognize that "we are in a climate emergency."

To begin confronting this emergency without leaving anyone behind, the officials argued that lawmakers throughout the U.S. must commit to:

  • Producing 100 percent clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and places most affected by pollution and currently dependent on fossil fuel jobs.
  • End permitting of new oil, gas, and coal projects and infrastructure, and begin a swift, managed decline of fossil fuel production, starting with phasing out production within a 2,500-foot public health buffer zone of occupied buildings and vulnerable areas, where the greatest harms occur.
  • End public subsidization of fossil fuels, divest from fossil fuel companies, and shift public investments to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy and help pay for the harm fossil fuels cause our states and municipalities; for example, a modest fee on fossil fuel production would generate billions of dollars to support workers and communities in the transition to 100% clean energy, creating good, family-sustaining jobs and stimulating our economies.

"We must protect our planet through actions big and small to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. There is no greater imperative," Catherine Blakespear, Mayor of Encinitas, California, said in a statement. "We have the technology to thrive and prosper without oil and gas drilling but we need the will to make it happen."

Read the local officials' full open letter:

Dear Governors, members of Congress, and elected officials throughout America,

We, the undersigned elected officials from across the United States, are deeply concerned about the devastating impacts of climate change and pollution caused by the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels on the communities we represent.

Record droughts, heat waves, wildfires, coastal flooding, ocean acidification, and storms are costing lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in damages in our communities. Our nation's mightiest cities have been flooded by unprecedented superstorms including Sandy, Katrina, Harvey, and Maria. Scientists warn that the impacts will continue to worsen, the federal government’s National Climate Assessment predicts economic losses will exceed the GDP of many states, and our military is responding to climate change as a key threat to national security.

Fossil fuel production and burning, the primary driver of climate change, causes serious local impacts and harm to public health from air pollution, water contamination, leaks, explosions and other dangers. Like climate change, the impacts from oil, gas, and coal disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color, and exacerbate social inequalities.

Fossil fuel companies knew about the damage their product causes for half a century, yet spent billions of dollars to hamstring society's response. Decades of denial, misinformation, and lobbying from the fossil fuel industry has delayed critical action to transition our society from its current dependence on fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and has cost people’s lives.

As leaders responsible for America's present and future prosperity, we must significantly raise the bar for climate leadership and set our nation on a new path. We join with states, cities, businesses, and institutions that are already taking bold action to protect public health and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in energy efficiency and clean energy like wind and solar. Honoring the role of workers in building the America of today, we need to ensure our workers are supported in building the clean energy economy of tomorrow, reducing pollution while expanding opportunity.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recent report, preventing catasphrophic worst-case scenarios of climate change requires "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society." Recognizing that we are in a climate emergency, the tremendous costs of climate change and fossil fuels to our communities, and the grave public health and environmental justice consequences of fossil fuel production, we urge jurisdictions through America to commit to:

1. Producing 100% clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and places most affected by pollution and currently dependent on fossil fuel jobs.

2. End permitting of new oil, gas, and coal projects and infrastructure, and begin a swift, managed decline of fossil fuel production, starting with phasing out production within a 2,500-foot public health buffer zone of occupied buildings and vulnerable areas, where the greatest harms occur.

3. End public subsidization of fossil fuels, divest from fossil fuel companies, and shift public investments to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy and help pay for the harm fossil fuels cause our states and municipalities; for example, a modest fee on fossil fuel production would generate billions of dollars to support workers and communities in the transition to 100% clean energy, creating good, family-sustaining jobs and stimulating our economies.

This is the bold climate leadership we need to protect our public health, communities, and economies and lead us forward. By taking these actions and investing significantly more in energy efficiency, clean vehicles and buildings, public transportation, renewable energy, and other innovative solutions in a comprehensive national plan such as a Green New Deal, we will create millions of jobs and a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for all Americans now and in the future.

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