with Paulina Firozi
The South is behind on climate change, Stacey Abrams says. She has a plan to change that.
The region, already battered by raging hurricanes and sweltering summers, is among the most vulnerable to the dangers posed by rising global temperatures.
But it is lagging behind other parts of the country in taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from a group Abrams founded after losing the Georgia governor’s race in 2018.
“The South is doing bits and pieces,” Abrams said in an interview Tuesday. “We have not taken the concerted and, I would say, persistent action that we need.”
The wave of protests nationwide over racial injustice after the police killing of George Floyd, she added, underscores the “persistent systemic inequities” that lead poor and minority areas to face higher pollution and more difficulty keeping the lights on.
“Those inequities have one of their strongest grips in the South,” said Abrams, who has pushed publicly to be Joe Biden’s pick for vice president.
Abrams is using her status as the candidate who almost turned Georgia blue to press Southern states to do more to support cleaner electricity and cars.
The report released Tuesday by her think tank, the Southern Economic Advancement Project, offers a road map for the South to catch up to the rest of the country.
Her group is calling on Southern states to pass laws requiring utilities to adopt renewable or carbon-free sources of power.
A majority of U.S. states have set goals for increasing the share of electricity they get from clean sources. But of the 13 states with no targets, even voluntary ones, nine are in the South.
The transition away from coal wouldn’t break the bank, Abrams’s group argues. All but three of the 77 coal-fired power plants in the 12-state region could be replaced by cheaper wind and solar energy by 2025, the report said.
One area where the South — specifically, Georgia — is leading the country is in nuclear energy. The ongoing expansion of the Vogtle nuclear power plant is the only new construction of commercial nuclear reactors in the United States.
“What we’ve seen from Georgia’s experience is that that is unlikely to be the leading solution across the South,” Abrams said.
At the municipal level, Abrams is calling for cities to enact building codes requiring energy-efficient structures, and to expand and electrify bus and rail networks.
She is also calling for state legislatures to give residents financial help to purchase electric vehicles.
Georgia once rivaled California with one of the nation’s largest subsidies for electric vehicle buyers — until state lawmakers repealed it in 2015.
Southern states need to look toward each other — not just toward California…
Read More: The Energy 202: Stacey Abrams wants the South to do more to tackle climate change