When the next phase of the US climate movement launches with a nationally streamed rally at the end of the month, the wound-licking will be over. Yes, the Trump administration has upset any hope of a smooth and orderly transition to a new energy world. Yes, it’s pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Yes, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have made a mockery of hurricane victims and fire victims and flood victims, from San Juan to Montecito to Houston.
But the fossil-fuel industry doesn’t hold all the high cards. We’ll start playing our own aces for a Fossil-Free United States on January 31, when Bernie Sanders and an all-star lineup brought together by 350.org that includes everyone from indigenous activist Dallas Goldtooth to NAACP organizer Jacqui Patterson to star youth climate organizer Varshini Prakash lay out a coordinated plan for the year ahead.
The basic outlines are pretty simple. None of the strategies rely on Washington’s doing anything useful. In fact, because DC has emerged as the fossil-fuel industry’s impregnable fortress, our strategies look everywhere else for progress. In every case, real momentum has emerged, even in the last few weeks.
Job 1: Push for a fast and just transition to renewable energy in cities and states. The Trump administration has done what it can to slow down sun and wind power, even recently raising tariffs on imported solar panels, but it has not been able to change the basic underlying math. With each passing month, the technology that powers renewable energy gets cheaper and cheaper. It’s already generating massive quantities of electrons at prices cheaper than any other technology has ever managed in the past. A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency reports that renewables will be consistently cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. That’s why mayors and governors have felt free to make ambitious pledges about the future. So far, 51 cities have joined a campaign led by the Sierra Club promising to convert to 100 percent renewable energy; five are already there.
Of course, that leaves tens of thousands of cities and towns that can make a similar pledge—and activists will be fanning out to their councils and selectboards and mayors in the months ahead. They’ll do it knowing this is a movement with real breadth: It’s not just the San Franciscos and Madisons that are on board, but the San Diegos, the Atlantas, the Fayettevilles. I mean, Salt Lake City is signed up. You know those blue dots on the election-night maps, the ones that contain most of the country’s innovation? They’re making the commitment, and those commitments will push the engineers to keep innovating.