In a little over a month, the so-called Green New Deal has won endorsements from more than three dozen sitting or incoming federal lawmakers as Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) makes a high-profile bid to shift debate over climate change toward policy on the scale of the crisis.
On Friday, the effort got a boost from 311 state and local officials.
Forty-four mayors, 63 county and state legislators and 116 city council members were among the officials from 40 states ― including some top oil and gas producers ― who signed an open letter issuing a sweeping, full-throated call for the phaseout of fossil fuels and adoption of Green New Deal-style climate policies.
One signatory, L.W. Allstadt, a trustee of the Upstate New York village of Cooperstown, is a former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, the giant that merged with Exxon in 1998 to form the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.
“The existence of climate change and its potential disastrous impacts have been known for decades,” Allstadt said in a statement. “The solutions, primary among which is elimination of the use of fossil fuels, have also been known.”
The letter ― published Friday online and shared in advance with HuffPost ― was organized by Elected Officials to Protect America, a nonprofit formed in 2015 to rally support for local climate action. It lays out three demands. It calls for 100 percent renewable energy, though does not specify a timeline. To buttress that, it proposes ending “public subsidization of fossil fuels,” and divesting from fossil fuel companies to “shift public investments to accelerate the transition to 100 percent clean energy and pay for the harm fossil fuels cause our states and municipalities.”
“The existence of climate change and its potential disastrous impacts have been known for decades. The solutions, primary among which is elimination of the use of fossil fuels, have also been known.”
In its most specific demand, the letter urges the “end of permitting of new oil, gas, and coal projects and infrastructure” and proposed “phasing out production within 2,500-foot public health buffer zone of occupied buildings and vulnerable areas” ― a policy that would essentially severely restrict new drilling.
“Fossil fuel companies knew about the damage their product causes for half a century, yet spent billions of dollars to hamstring society’s response,” the letter reads. “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.”
The letter, while mostly symbolic, adds new urgency to the campaign for a Green New Deal, a still-vague umbrella term for massive federal stimulus to rapidly scale up renewable energy and provide high-wage jobs to workers transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry. On Friday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) became the second high-profile likely candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 to announce his support for the Green New Deal.
The term appears to be gaining steam in municipal politics, too. In New York City, proponents of a landmark bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from big buildings ― the city’s largest source of climate pollution ― are calling the legislation a “Green New Deal for NYC.”