In the Face of Climate Change, Cities and States Continue to Lead On Clean Energy

As we continue to see a complete lack of action on climate change from the Trump administration, we’re inspired to demonstrate, yet again, that states and cities are leading the way. This is happening across the spectrum, including in so-called red states: people are experiencing first-hand the devastating effects of climate change and are rising together to advocate that their communities move to solar and wind power.

This week Boise, Idaho became the first city in Idaho and 115th city nationally to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. With this commitment, Boise joins numerous other cities in traditionally conservative states that are bucking the mainstream narrative by prioritizing and working to implement clean energy. For years, the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, in coordination with the Ready for 100 campaign, has worked with local activists in Boise — including some inspiring students with the Climate Justice League — to build the grassroots support for moving away from fossil fuels. After years of meeting with city council members, collecting petitions, making countless phone calls, and enlisting support from local businesses, Boisians have finally seen their efforts realized in “Boise’s Energy Future,” a plan making a community-wide commitment to 100 percent clean energy.

In July 2018, students with the Climate Justice League joined the Idaho Sierra Club in delivering over 1300 postcards to Councilmember Lauren McLean in support of 100 percent clean energy for the city.

Families, small business owners, people of faith, and so many others are lending their voices to move these cities and county councils away from fossil fuels. They feel first-hand the effects of using dirty fuels and now they’re the ones pushing their communities towards clean energy. Idaho has experienced more than 10 times as many large fires (larger than 1000 acres) per season and an average 21 more wildfires per season, both since 1970. The state has also seen a 1.72 degree F increase in average spring and summer temperatures and 78 percent less precipitation falling at high elevations — again, both since the 1970s. For many these changes mean a loss of lands, home, stability, and work.

It’s past time for change — the people are demanding action and showing officials the economic and quality-of-life benefits that investment in an equitable clean energy system can provide.

Because of these powerful grassroots leaders, utilities are making major moves away from fossil fuels as well. This Boise announcement comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Idaho Power. The company will provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2045 because of customers demanding it! This makes Idaho Power the first major Pacific Northwest utility to commit to move away from fossil fuels, and following MidAmerican in 2016 and Colorado-based Xcel Energy last December. Now, we need to make sure they deliver on that commitment.

Climate Justice League activists in Boise show off their hard work in the local paper.

Admittedly, we bristle a little at the term “red states” because we know that the advocates and the values in these places are not monolithic. But it’s still worth noting that a lot of states that have recently voted along conservative lines have also been making big progress on climate and clean energy. Idaho isn’t the only red state turning green. Just to the south, activists in Utah are also moving their communities to commit to 100 percent clean energy including Salt Lake City, Park City, Moab, Cottonwood Heights, and Summit County.

Last March, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that sets the entire state on the path to 100 percent carbon-free energy!

Last month, New Mexico passed the “Energy Transition Act,” a bill to move the state to 100% carbon-free electricity.

And other clean energy commitments in so-called red states include Buncombe County, North Carolina; Wake County, North Carolina; Hillsborough, North Carolina; Dunedin, Florida; Clarkston, Georgia; Tallahassee, Florida; Gainesville, Florida; and Norman, Oklahoma.

Climate action and clean energy progress is happening everywhere, in states of all persuasions, thanks to grassroots leadership at the state and local level. We can and will meet this crisis together. Join us.

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