A Message from Pat Graham, State Director at the Nature Conservancy in Arizona.
As State Director at The Nature Conservancy in Arizona for the past 19 years, I have seen changes, but this year has proved to be one of the most challenging for all. COVID has shaken nearly every aspect of life over the past six months and we commend city leaders on the very difficult decisions that have been made.
We know more challenging decision are ahead and we hope that Arizona Thrives can assist when making decisions about clean energy, clean air and rebuilding our economy.
Arizona Thrives: Building a Statewide Alliance
The Nature Conservancy started this effort with a focused group, which has since attracted a larger alliance, even during this pandemic. Our members realize the value of working together to achieve common goals, to put Arizona on the path forward in a way that benefits all.
Several issues that we know need our attention immediately:
- Three of Arizona’s counties are among the worst in the nation for air quality and this affects children and the elderly and puts at risk billions of dollars at risk of lost opportunity for business growth and jobs.
- We have two of the hottest cities in the nation and they are getting hotter.
- We faced a 20-year drought that has put our water supply in jeopardy and scientists project it will decline into the future this affects both rural and urban economies and our environment.
- We lost one quarter of our Ponderosa forests in a single decade and millions of acres are at risk threatening air quality, water supplies and communities.
There are also changes in the nation’s economy to consider as opportunities for Arizona. We are increasingly relying less on fossil fuels. Cheap natural gas is driving out coal. Renewables are cost competitive and battery storage costs are declining. Autonomous vehicles may change the way we move. Arizona is also becoming a hub for the shift to hydrogen and electric vehicles, creating new jobs and economic opportunities.
The Path Forward
When we originally convened the Arizona Thrives taskforce, we set out to identify recommendations that would meet clean air quality standards and strive to reduce carbon emission to become net carbon neutral by 2050. One overarching message from the team: we need to collaborate statewide and across the economy wide for solutions that will benefit all. Now we are developing a path forward concentrating on three sectors of the economy—how we move, the transportation sector; how we power our economy; the utility sector; and where we live and work, the development sector. Approaching these issues in a business as usual way will not be enough. We need to work differently, work together and change the conversation from polarization to collaboration.
These are complex challenges - how do we make this transition in a way that is affordable, reliable and competitive.
We can’t afford to waste time or money. We are developing a set of guiding principles that we can all align around to position Arizona to take full benefit of a future that is already upon us. Our alliance is poised to sign on to these principles and take actions consistent with them so that we all benefit–rural and urban, tribal and historically underserved communities. Staff from the Nature Conservancy, Nicole Hill (Nicole.Hill@tnc.org) and Christian Stumpf (Christian.Stumpf@tnc.org), are available to discuss more details about Arizona Thrives. A phased launch is scheduled to start in October at which time more information will be released.
We hope that your community will join us in making the commitment to clean air, healthy communities and a strong economy that works for everyone.