Climate change is happening now. We are already experiencing more extreme weather, higher temperatures, drought, flooding, and rising sea levels across the United States. The consequences of climate change are expected to get worse as we continue dumping carbon pollution in our air. Fortunately, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently unveiled the most ambitious step we have taken to combat climate change, the Clean Power Plan.
These safeguards put the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from our power plants. In 2013, power plants in Arizona dumped over 55 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, equal to the yearly pollution from over 11 million cars. Not only does this pollution fuel climate change, it’s a public health hazard that disproportionately impacts communities of color through childhood asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Every state has the flexibility to implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that serves their constituents best. Chíspa Arizona, a program of League of Conservation Voters, is calling on Arizona’s leaders to craft a plan that will benefit low-income and communities of color and relies on clean energy sources like wind and solar. We want to elevate Latino voices within the conservation movement and create opportunities for people to get involved in the fight against climate change to protect our health, our families, and future generations.
States are also encouraged to engage low-income and communities of color in the process of developing their implementation plans. Arizona can receive incentives to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy programs that directly benefit low-income neighborhoods. Not only will this improve health outcomes in communities of color, it will create jobs and grow the economy. It should come as no surprise that a 2014 survey by the Benenson Strategy Group showed that in Arizona, 90 percent of Latinos support utility companies using more clean energy and 88 percent know utility companies contribute to the pollution problem. Our community knows that this plan is good for our families, and the EPA projects the health and climate benefits of the plan are worth an estimated $32 billion to $54 billion per year in 2030.
Chíspa is ready to spread the word about this critical plan for our future. This last month, we launched two simultaneous media campaigns encouraging Latinos to tell Governor Ducey to develop a strong state implementation plan that invests in clean energy and energy efficiency.
Our two campaigns complement one another, and speak to different Latino voices. Pa’ tu madre… tierra translates to “For your mother…earth,” and engages young millennial Latinos. It is especially important to engage young people, who are motivated to tackle the issue of pollution and climate change with new ideas and energy. The Ilumínate campaign, or “illuminate yourself,” aims to create a conversation with Latina mothers. Their important role in the family gives them a unique perspective on the health impacts of pollution, as well as a vision of a cleaner, better future for their children.
The sooner we act to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the more we can do to prevent the negative health impacts that affect all Americans. We know that much work remains to be done to ensure that our state’s decision-makers successfully transition to clean energy. It is our responsibility to leave future generations with clean air and healthy communities. Chíspa is working hand-in-hand with all Arizonans to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.
— Pedro Lopez is the Chíspa Arizona program director, League of Conservation Voters.