Op-Ed: Giving thanks for bipartisanship

Source: By Shana Rappaport, GreenBiz • Posted: Monday, November 26, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex

Student activists with the Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to demand that she and the Democrats act on climate change. They also met with incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Adapted from the VERGE Weekly newsletter, published Wednesdays.

This week, in the run-up to Thanksgiving, I felt thankful for the steadily increasing drumbeat of action to advance clean energy and climate progress here in the United States. Specifically, the way in which bipartisan leadership is demonstrating what unification and collaboration can achieve.

Here are three cases in point that have me especially energized about work happening at the federal, state and local levels.

1. Time for a New Green Deal

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t wasting time to ensure bold climate action gets taken come January, when the new U.S. Congress gets sworn in. The rising Democratic star who, at the ripe age of 29, was just elected as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district — and will be the youngest woman in Congress — is rallying support for a New Green Deal: a set of ambitious principles that would represent the most progressive political platform to date on climate change.

In essence, the resolution calls for a comprehensive decarbonization of the U.S. economy within a decade — transitioning 100 percent of national electricity generation to renewable sources, and addressing the role the electric power, agriculture and transportation sectors play in achieving carbon neutrality and significant drawdown of greenhouse gasses. It also emphasizes that innovative financing structures from both the public and private sectors can and must be leveraged to achieve “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality,” according to its vision statement.

The New Green Deal is as aggressive as it is necessary when it comes to pushing for climate policies that are commensurate with the current challenge — and it will require Nancy Pelosi to step up and into greater climate leadership, assuming she resumes her position as Speaker of the House. David Roberts of Vox wrote an insightful piece unpacking the complexity of what’s unfolding; and while we have yet to see how this all plays out, there’s no question that Ocasio-Cortez’s vision is meaningfully pushing the overton window towards more adequate action.

2. Towards a unified power grid

Think interstate highway system meets grid modernization. That’s what a group of 18 U.S. governors are championing, by proposing that the federal government stitch together the nation’s three main electricity grids.

The proposal, under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is championed by the Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition — a bipartisan group of governors committed to meeting America’s domestic energy demands with wind and solar. The case they’re making is clear: Connecting the seams between the eastern, western and Texas-based grids — enabling the move of electrons among them — would make the nation’s electrical power system “more resilient, efficient, reliable, competitive and less vulnerable to cyber-attack.”

While it gets technical quickly, this isn’t just for energy wonks: The so-called Interconnections Seams Study behind this, spearheaded by the National Renewable Energy Lab, lays out a compelling rationale and roadmap for upgrading the U.S. electric grid.

3. Mayors for Solar Energy

While it’s not breaking news that cities are stepping up climate action in the absence of federal leadership, the newest announcement on the scene is that a consortium of 216 U.S. mayors, representing all 50 states and including 25 Republicans, signed a letter calling for more deployment of solar power.

It’s part of a nationwide mobilization effort called Mayors for Solar Energy, spearheaded by Environment America, that’s targeting mayors who are backing their signatures with tangible action. The strategies they’re working to advance, and resources they’re providing, are all about helping city leaders take concrete steps towards unlocking the environmental, public health and grid resilience benefits of clean energy.

That’s a great assemblage of proposals at the national, state and local levels — the kind of top-down and bottom-up initiatives we need to adequately take on the climate crisis. And to that, I’ll be raising a glass with my family this holiday season.