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Progressive Voice: The Actions We Need on Climate Change

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Alfonso Lopez

On April 29, tens of thousands of people – including many Arlingtonians – made their way to the Nation’s Capital to march and demand action on climate change.

Supporters joined together for similar marches and rallies in hundreds of locations across the United States and around the globe.

With the impacts of climate change being felt worldwide, it was important to send a very clear message – we must not retreat from the actions that are necessary to address this crisis.

Marchers intended to resist the Trump Administration’s open hostility toward measures to address climate change. They also called on decision-makers to continue taking the necessary constructive and positive steps to combat the causes of climate change at the national, state, and local levels.

Over the last eight years under President Barack Obama’s leadership, the United States did more to combat climate change than ever before. We committed to the Paris Global Climate Change agreement, improved fuel efficiency standards, and put forward the Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. We invested in renewable energy, which has led to a rapid expansion of our clean energy economy and significant increases in the generation of wind and solar power.

However, it has become abundantly clear that we can no longer rely on the federal government to lead the way on environmental protection or renewable energy investments. In just the first 100 days, the Trump Administration has worked to repeal the Clean Water Rule, delayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan, delayed implementation of the new chemical storage rule and attempted to diminish the EPA’s effectiveness through budget cuts, staff cuts and dismissing scientific experts from advisory commissions.

With the EPA and environmental protections under attack, it is incumbent on the commonwealth to act on behalf of Virginia residents – especially since strong majorities in Virginia have expressed their support for staying on the path toward clean energy and climate action.

One such action for which we can be thankful is Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) issuance of Executive Order 57, which created a working group to develop carbon reduction strategies for Virginia’s fossil fuel power plants.

Last week, I submitted a letter to that working group – signed by 18 members of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus in the General Assembly – that called for the working group to recommend: investments in energy sources with low or zero emissions footprints; utility-run efficiency programs; allowing utility customers to work together to install carbon-neutral renewable energy systems; and identifying revenue sources for transition assistance packages to help coal communities adapt to our changing energy economy. We hope McAuliffe and the working group will take bold action to promote these and other clean energy initiatives.

While these are important first steps by the Governor, the Virginia General Assembly also needs to do more to protect our environment for future generations and help transition Virginia away from a dependence on fossil fuels, stay on the path of climate action, and build on the progress we’ve made to move America toward a climate-friendly 21st century clean energy economy.

Through investments in the development of solar and wind energy sources, the Governor and General Assembly can not only put Virginia at the forefront of harnessing the potential of clean, renewable sources of energy, but also grow our economy and create jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

In the 2017 elections, Virginia voters have a tremendous opportunity to send a clear message about the importance of addressing climate change and protecting our environment.

Through the June 13 primaries and the November 8 general election, voters will choose Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General for the next four years. All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will also be on the ballot in districts across the commonwealth.

If you care about climate change and want Virginia to keep moving forward toward a sound environment and a thriving economy, it will be vitally important that you vote and choose candidates who will make climate action a priority.

Whether it is ensuring that our water supply is not contaminated like that of Flint, Mich., or ensuring that we do not suffer chemical spills of the magnitude of the Elk River spill, we need to combat inaction at the federal level by electing leaders in Virginia who will push the commonwealth toward national leadership in climate action, renewable energy, and environmental protection.

Let’s make sure our voices are heard.

Alfonso Lopez represents Virginia’s 49th District in the House of Delegates, which includes parts of South Arlington and Eastern Fairfax County. He is the founder and Chair of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus in the General Assembly.

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