Turning the wheel of revolution

Last week President Trump made climate change headline news – though all for the wrong reasons. With his announcement intending to have the U.S. pull out of the Paris climate accord, he is taking the nation backwards at a time we need to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis.

But the other headline news is that cities, counties, states, and businesses will lead, even  if the federal government won’t. On June 1st the City of Portland, OR and Multnomah County became the first communities in the Northwest to make a commitment to 100% clean energy. This is a very big deal, and an accomplishment worth celebrating and replicating across communities in the region and the nation. 
Why does this matter? Most importantly, because it marks a major commitment to a vision that is critical if we are going to rapidly accelerate clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. We need to do a lot of things to protect the planet from the worst impacts of climate change, but one of the most important is transitioning as quickly as we can away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner forms of energy and transportation. Commitments like those made by Portland and Multnomah County build momentum, and commitment to making that happen. And we need to keep going forward, all of us, to expand our clean energy accomplishments.

At Climate Solutions, we have embraced the vision of 100% clean. Indeed, our new strategic focus places 100% clean at the center of our work. Our plan is premised on our belief that the best leadership opportunity for the Northwest is to swiftly transition the Northwest electrical grid to 100% clean energy, faster than anywhere else in the nation, and to leverage our clean grid to electrify as many energy uses for the built environment, industry, and transportation that we can.

And it is happening fast. Already this year, Climate Solutions and our many partners have won several important victories on the path to 100% clean in addition to the Portland/Multnomah victory, including:

  • King County made the biggest commitment to electric buses in the nation; 
  • Eugene’s Lane Transit District became the first transit agency in Oregon to operate electric buses;
  • PGE took a major step back from their plan to build a new gas plant in Oregon;
  • The Washington State Legislature passed a bill to increase alternative fuels.

Each of these victories was won by a diverse set of organizations, businesses, government leaders, local activists, community of color-based organizations and more. Because that is what it takes to win these victories. 

But the wins are not just happening here in the Northwest. Outside of our region, efforts to go 100% clean are gaining momentum. Consider these:

  • 95 major companies have made a commitment to go 100% renewable;
  • 67 mayors from across the United States have made a commitment to 100% clean through the Sierra Club’s fantastic Ready for 100 Campaign;
  • The Solutions Project, which arguably launched the 100% clean movement, is doing great work across the United States;
  • The California State Senate just passed a bill for 100% clean energy;
  • Governors Jay Inslee and Kate Brown are two of thirteen state and territorial governors who have formed the United States Climate Alliance, for the purpose of “upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.” The Alliance will expand as other states add their support.

And the list goes on.

Climate Solutions could not be more supportive of this work. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of these efforts is the creation of opportunities for everybody to engage at many different levels. You can work to get your city council to pass a 100% clean resolution, or get them to commit to buying more electric buses. You can convince your business to make a commitment to 100% clean energy, joining companies around the planet making similar commitments. You can work to pass statewide policies that significantly accelerate investments in energy efficiency, energy storage, vehicle electrification, and more. 

Author Bio

Gregg Small
Gregg Small

Executive Director, Climate Solutions

Gregg brings nearly 30 years of experience working on climate, environmental, and public policy issues, including 25 as an Executive Director. At Climate Solutions, Gregg oversees a staff of more than two dozen policy experts, campaigners, innovators, and researchers across Washington and Oregon, providing strategic direction for one of the most effective regional climate and clean economy organizations in the nation. Under his leadership, Climate Solutions and our many allies have successfully passed some of the best climate policies in the United States. 

Prior to coming to Climate Solutions, Gregg served as the Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition for 7 years and as the Executive Director of the California-based Pesticide Watch for 5 years. During that time, he played a leadership role in creating and developing a number of leading coalitions working on environmental health issues, including the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition,Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Bodies. At Climate Solutions, he helped to found the Washington-based Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and Renew Oregon.

Gregg began his professional career as an organizer for Green Corps, working in Washington, DC, Vermont, and California. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College.

When not at work, Gregg spends time with his family and raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that his son Jude has and that he is passionate about finding a cure for.