Rapid Renewable Transition Possible and Necessary


Ashik Siddique of The Climate Mobilization, at People’s Climate March, says some states are already keeping fossil fuels in the ground

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Story Transcript

Ashik Siddique: We’re here at the climate march just representing the demand for climate goals in line with the urgency of climate science, what the research is actually telling us, and any notion of justice which is that we need a very rapid transition to zero omissions globally, but it has to start in the United States as one of the historical greatest emitters and global hegemon that influences global policy.

We need a transition basically within the next decade to zero omissions. Because that’s actually … That matches the physical urgency of how fast climate impacts are accelerating. So if you want any possible chance, like a strong chance of staying below 2 degrees warming or not far overshooting that, which has been determined as the safety limit which is already too high, actually. We’re already almost 1.5 degrees Celsius or approaching it very quickly. So that just necessitates a much faster transition than is being considered in the political mainstream.

So our goal as an organization is just to build grassroots pressure for demand that ambitious which is inline with what would actually protect most people. Not just the most vulnerable, but all of us essentially. Because the more climate impact accelerate, the more just entire societies are destabilized. What’s happening in Syria and parts of Africa already, right now, could eventually happen in developed industrial countries like the United States. So, already there’s so much unrest and polarization in America, it might not take very much to tip the United States into just chaos. That’s very hard to imagine, but …

Kim Brown: So given the fact that environmental protections are under attack, really, from the federal level with Donald Trump repealing a lot of what President Obama laid forth via executive order, is it imperative that environmental protection policy now start at the state level? Is it necessary to try to make things in play in individual states as opposed to trying to do it federally since the federal government, under new management, is not really interested in doing that anymore?

Ashik Siddique: I think so. Already we’re seeing so much resistance in particular states like California, like New York State, at the state level where the governorships and state legislatures are really, not just doubling down to protect existing progress, but to raise their ambitions and become flag bearers for the rest of the country. That’s really great, and they need to go as far as possible and maintain that progress and show the model … to show the way forward. Because already, before Trump, even the most progressive states weren’t moving as fast as necessary. So, I think just the necessity of this government being in power means that nothing is really going to happen at the national level. So we need to keep our eye on the horizon of eventual national mobilization, but that has to start at the state and local level at this point.

Kim Brown: So what are some of the campaigns or policies that have been passed at the state level that have really impressed you or you’re like, “This is probably the direction that people should go”?

Ashik Siddique: I think right now, it seems like California really seems to be the standard bearer in that I think they’ve set the most ambitious goal for … I forget if this is still in the works or has already passed in their legislature, but to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050 and 50% by 2030, which we still need to move faster than that, but that they’ve even set a goal for complete de-carbonization is still way more ambitious than other states.

I think they already have plans to phase out gas fueled cars, or I forget if there’s some controversy … I mean, there are lots of particulars about this major bill that was passed in the past month. Then in other states, like Maryland just banned fracking. New York State banned fracking. So already, some states are really raising the bar on actually deciding to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to limit their extraction. Just period. That’s a good sign.

So there are basically two major angles to the energy transition. One is raising ambitions for the transition to clean energy, and the other is just limiting fossil fuel extraction. So there’s already progress being made and we just need to keep pushing that as fast as possible.

Kim Brown: Is there anything else that you think that our viewers or our listeners should know? Either about what your organization does or another issue that is involved in this sort of multi-layered complexity of global climate change.

Ashik Siddique: I think the biggest message that our organization has is just that we want to encourage everything already happening. Just across the board in the climate movement, there are so many angles. But we want to say that a very rapid transition within a decade is possible and necessary, and we have to mobilize to make the necessary possible. Because in our current political reality, obviously, it’s not. But enough people start to want it and demand it and build grassroots pressure and organize, then this can be the real horizon for the climate movement. If and when the progressives can ever take back power at any level of government, this has to be our demand, just much more rapid than … We can’t accept gradualism. We as a group want to say goodbye to gradualism in climate policy, and just demand something that can protect all of us.