An update on where we stand with environmental policy


The New Year is a time for reimagining your routine and your goals, and for an update on where we stand with environmental policy across the globe and in our backyard.

December marked the anniversary of the signing of the Paris Accords, which for the first time, united the globe in reducing carbon emissions. Unfortunately, President Trump removed us from the accords, but president-elect Biden has vowed to return to the table in leading the world on solutions to stave off the worst impacts of the climate emergency. This return has provided us with the opportunity as a nation to step up with more ambitious climate goals, because the science says it is the only path to carbon reductions that can solve the problem.

Let’s also take a moment and highlight the United Nations Green Climate Fund. It is a global environmental justice fund to provide assistance to nations that did not cause the problems and need support in ensuring they are prepared for emergency, and share in the just transition’s economic benefits. I hope you can join me in asking Biden to expand contributions to this fund because America is responsible for a huge share of the cumulative carbon in the atmosphere.

Biden has been hard at work selecting his cabinet picks to implement his Build Back Better strategy. I had a chance to meet with presidential transition members for the major offices that interfaces with environmental issues. Though branded differently than the Green New Deal, this is an ambitious public works and interagency effort to a clean future. It is easy to see the influence that the Bernie Sanders campaign had in the shaping of this agenda. A pick that brings me hope is Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, becoming the first Native American to serve as the Secretary of the Interior. Breaking this glass ceiling empowers me and other indigenous people to fight harder to restore a healthy relationship with the natural world that places health, safety and purity of the environment above profits for polluters.

At the state Capitol, we are expecting a showdown between legislators and a community that is beyond their breaking point. Following hard-fought wins in 2019 and 2020, an analysis conducted by environmental advocacy groups shows just how far off track we are in meeting targets. We need aggressive and radical systems transformation. Will Gov. Polis step up and be this leader? Will utilities like Xcel stop threatening efforts that clean our air and reduce emissions?

As bureaucrats argue over jurisdiction, authority and funding, the people are being left out to dry. COVID-19 has exposed a system that disenfranchises and discriminates against our neighbors. We need leadership that will lift frontline communities like Globeville, Elyria and Swansea that are in government-sanctioned sacrifice zones. Join them in fighting back against this system — I know they would love the support.

Here in Denver, things are in high gear after the passage of 2A, which is a sales tax for climate action that sets aside half of the estimated $40 million a year back to pollution-impacted communities and those vulnerable to the negative impacts of the climate crisis. This year, the newly created Sustainability Advisory Council will be hard at work deciding just where these funds will go. Local efforts around the globe are exactly what we need. We need the efforts of the U.N. Green Climate Fund and our own 2A funds to undo the harms from the past and to seek an equitable and just future. It takes people working together at every level.

This is our year to emerge from the darkness of COVID-19. While the stock market may have seemed to have recovered, we know that the success of Wall Street doesn’t translate to main street. Whether you call it Build Back Better or a Green New Deal, we have a moral and economic directive to take the climate crisis head on. We have a workforce and society that is primed for the transformational change so many seek. Let’s do this!

Ean Thomas Tafoya is a climate and government activist. He can be reached at @BelieveEan on Twitter.

Ean Thomas Tafoya, environment, Denver


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