Letter from the Director: How Trump is helping the climate movement

No one would have guessed it in November, but 2017 has turned out to be the best year on record for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. After 15 years of hard work – partnering with local activists like you in Maryland, Virginia, and DC – our efforts are paying off with stunning wins this year.

And Donald Trump is actually helping. For years, many people thought it would take a huge natural disaster of epic proportion to wake Americans up to the dangers of climate change. It turns out that the massive political disaster of Donald Trump is having a similar effect. As writer Bill McKibben recently observed, no president in US history has unified more Americans to fight FOR clean energy and AGAINST climate change than President Trump. Withdrawing from the Paris climate accord was tragic. Dismantling much of the EPA’s work is horrifying. But when it comes to Maryland, Virginia and DC – and many other enlightened states nationwide – the climate movement is now accelerating at warp speed. Seriously.

Want proof?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:

We’ve seen staggering advances at the local level in DC over the past 12 months. Last July, before Trump’s election, the DC Council passed a 50% clean electricity standard for the city, making DC a national leader in clean power. Since then, CCAN has been leading a snowballing campaign to pass a “carbon fee-and-rebate” bill for the city. The initiative, now supported by dozens of faith, business, justice, and environmental groups, would force polluting companies in DC to pay for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit and then rebate the lion’s share of the revenue back to all DC residents in a way the INCREASES the net income of low- and moderate-income residents.The policy would also expand the city’s economy, create jobs, and reduce carbon emissions by 23%. Again, in the first year of the Trump Administration, momentum behind this “Climate and Community Reinvestment Act” for the District has mushroomed. What better way to “resist” in DC, after all, than to send carbon-priced electricity and gas to the White House whether they want it or not? Stay tuned.

The bill will have a hearing in the fall and we hope to see it pass by the end of the year. Councilmember Mary Cheh of Ward 3 and Phil Mendelson (at-large) are key votes. Tell them you support the bill.

VIRGINIA:

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe – a foot-dragger on climate issues for three years – announced in May that he will finally impose a hard cap on carbon emissions from power plants by the end of this year. It’s a huge victory, and CCAN led the fight for three years demanding that McAuliffe impose such a carbon cap per his legal authority. But then Donald Trump came along and, according to McAuliffe himself, it sealed the Governor’s decision to finally do the right thing. We set the table, darkness gathered at the national level, then a southern coal state moved toward an historic solution.

Thank you Governor McAuliffe…and P.S., you’ve got to stop supporting oil drilling and fracked-gas pipelines in Virginia too!

MARYLAND:

Republican Governor Larry Hogan stunned the entire nation in March by supporting an outright legislative ban on fracking in the state. For seven years, activists pushed for a bill to prevent violent fracking for gas. We rallied. We marched. We went to jail. Then a fracking ban finally became law in 2017 with bipartisan support. Why? The hard work and vision of citizens like you set the table. Plus, Hogan’s own polling showed that Marylanders’ support for a fracking ban INCREASED with every day that Republican Donald Trump talked about drilling everywhere and burning everything. We were ready. Trump provided a spark that was dangerous to the planet AND Governor Hogan’s political future, and the tides of change moved faster than anyone expected. Everything came together.

And not just on a fracking ban. Maryland legislators in 2017 significantly expanded support for wind and solar power, and adopted a nation-leading energy efficiency law for electricity. Then, in a coup de gras, the state’s Public Service Commission in May approved development of two major offshore wind farms off the Maryland coast. What a year! Since January, we’ve had more energy victories in Maryland than during the previous five years combined!

MOVING FORWARD:

Revolutionary change is underway all across our region on clean energy. Six months ago, stunned by Trump’s election, none of us at CCAN could have predicted the progress we’ve seen in Maryland, Virginia and DC. At the national and international levels, what’s happening on climate is truly depressing. But in America, achievements at the state level are, in the long run, more resilient victories. No single president or Congress can come along in the future and undo clean energy laws in all 50 states. Trump is forcing us to build a deeper, more resilient, and more grassroots movement – and to do it with lightning quickness.

But we cannot rest on our recent laurels. We now have to push even harder to fulfill our responsibilities to the world, to make up for the losses on climate at the national level, and to provide leadership – right here in Virginia, Maryland, and DC – to the world. In 2018, we need to DOUBLE the mandate for wind and solar power in Maryland. This year, we need to block Gov. McAuliffe’s massive fracked-gas pipelines in Virginia. And right now, we need to show the world that America’s capital city can tax carbon pollution, reduce income inequality, and create jobs all at the same time.

Sound good? Are you fired up? Then stay involved and stay busy. The planet needs you more than ever.

On we go,

Mike Tidwell


Photo at the top from Flickr user Becker1999 with a Creative Commons license.