The number of cities that pledged to convert to 100-percent renewable energy has doubled since last year, bolstering hopes that similar state and national policies could soon gain traction.
Seventy cities and nine counties across the United States have now adopted ordinances setting targets to dramatically overhaul their electricity use, up from 36 cities before June 2017, according to a new Sierra Club analysis shared with HuffPost. The new total accounts for 10.3 million people using 2.5 percent of the country’s power output.
An additional 201 city mayors representing 24.4 million people and 6.5 percent of the nation’s electricity use have endorsed the 100-percent renewable goal, promising to roll out policies in the months to come. That figure, too, doubled since last year.
The announcement, made Friday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston, marks a significant victory for the Sierra Club and other clean energy advocates that have responded to President Donald Trump’s rollback of federal climate policies by pushing municipal-level reforms. Last year, U.S. Conference of Mayors, under pressure from the Sierra Club and billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, adopted a resolution calling on its 1,481 member cities to shift to 100-percent renewable energy.
“The leadership that we’re seeing from mayors across the country gives me more hope regarding climate change and clean energy than just about anything happening around the world right now,” Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, said by phone Friday morning.
But how the cities achieve that goal remains to be seen. Last June, researcher Christopher Clack published a bombshell paper in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences arguing that a leading roadmap for deploying 100-percent renewable by 2050 contained major flaws. Mark Jacobson, the Stanford University researcher who authored the 100-percent renewable strategy, filed a defamation lawsuit against the journal for $10 million, but dropped the litigation in February.
Still, the momentum cities and counties give to the push for clean energy could propel state and federal policies forward at a time when the Democratic Party, long the only major U.S. political party to reject industry-funded climate denial propaganda, is considering how to rebuild climate policies decimated by the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress. A number of progressive candidates across the country are running on the idea of a “Green New Deal,” a massive federal stimulus plan to invest in renewable energy infrastructure that could give teeth to 100-percent renewable energy goals.
“I have no doubt that 100-percent clean energy will be the focus point and rallying cry for an increasing number of elected officials in part because of the challenge of climate change is becoming ever more present and ever more severe,” Brune said. “We fully intend to hold each mayor and each city council’s feet to the fire and both help them to implement these commitments and cajole them and pressure them to stick to it.”