I hope the leadership and members of the Sunrise Movement know that they have huge public support in getting Asheville to adopt a meaningful climate emergency resolution, with the emphasis on the word meaningful. In the article in [the Nov. 20] Xpress, they sounded frustrated and discouraged by the bureaucratic process [“Council, Activists at Odds on Climate Emergency Resolution”]. But they also sounded resolute in sticking to their principled agenda.
In the preamble, or “whereas,” section of the resolution, there are 19 short paragraphs of what the city has already done or committed to on paper to reduce its carbon footprint. The city is proud of its accomplishments, and it is a leader among North Carolina municipalities in “sustainability” and energy accomplishments.
But what the Sunrise Movement wants from this emergency resolution is substantially different and certainly bolder than more and better intentions.
Under current law, the city cannot mandate excellent energy-efficient building codes. It can’t buy renewable electricity from parties other than Duke Energy. It can’t build and install solar energy with or without battery storage without Duke Energy’s approval. It can’t tap the hydropower energy being lost every day from the water flowing from the reservoir. It can’t help finance energy efficiency and solar projects for its residents. In short, unless the city becomes its own municipal electric utility, it can’t in any meaningful and concrete sense respond to the climate emergency unless it fights the General Assembly’s control over whom does our democracy serve: the corporate powers of Duke Energy and the building industry, or the residents of our community.
The city was willing to fight the state over district or citywide elections, certainly expressing the will of the people. Why isn’t the city willing to battle the state over the life-and-death climate crisis that will impact every sector of our community’s ability to survive in the rapidly heating world that we live in?
Take it from a retired emergency physician, we don’t need another meaningless document, we need action now. If I had responded to a person with a temperature of 104 degrees or a heart attack or a gunshot wound to the chest like the city is responding to the climate emergency, I would have lost my hospital privileges and maybe my license to practice.
Our mayor, City Council members, staff and members of the Sustainability Advisory Council on Energy and the Environment must do better by adopting a climate emergency resolution that includes ordinances that give the city the authority to become its own utility, develop the most up-to-date energy building codes and provide for equitable access to renewable energy funds for all. Council had the courage to fight the state over the election process. Let’s hope they find the courage to choose to fight over this life-and-death climate emergency.
— Richard Fireman, M.D. (retired)
Editor’s note: Fireman reports that he volunteers with Extinction Rebellion WNC and the Alliance for Energy Democracy and hopes you show up Dec. 6 for the Climate Strike sponsored by the Sunrise Movement.