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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Southeast Mayors Call On Congress To Set National Clean Energy Goal

Duke Energy Solar farm near Elizabeth City NC
Duke Energy
Twenty-four Southeast U.S. mayors say the transition to renewable energy is moving to slowly. This is a Duke Energy solar farm near Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Mayors from 24 cities across the Southeast are calling on Congress to adopt national clean energy standards. In a letter to Congress and the White House this week, the mayors say their goal is to speed the transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles, and to create jobs.

But cities can't do it on their own, said Mayor Pam Hemminger of Chapel Hill.

"We've been working on the grassroots for decades on climate activities and environmental issues. And it's moving too slowly," Hemminger said.. "It's got to be a bigger push from the federal government."

Specifically, the mayors are calling for a national goal of eliminating fossil fuels. This new "clean energy standard" would require increasing the percentage of electricity from clean energy sources to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

The letter was coordinated by the advocacy group Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Other mayors who signed it were from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas. Besides Hemminger, Carolinas' mayors were from Apex, Carrboro, Charlotte, Durham, Hillsborough, Elizabeth City, Kinston, Morrisville and Zebulon — all in North Carolina; and Florence and Charleston in South Carolina.

Most of the mayors are Democrats or unaffiliated.

The letter comes as local officials are trying to achieve their own goals for addressing climate change. That includes reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. But since communities here have little say over where their energy comes from, the mayors want Congress to set a national policy for reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector. Electricity plants are one of the top sources of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

The mayors said in the letter: "As cities, we are proud to take steps to usher in this clean energy transition, but reaping the benefits that a 100% clean power grid could mean for our communities will require partnership and leadership from state and federal government, particularly since many cities do not ultimately control the mix of energy generation fuels that power our communities."

The mayors noted that costs for renewable energy equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage are falling.

Benefits of a shift to clean energy, the mayors said, include creating new jobs in the renewable energy sector, improving public health and avoiding millions of dollars in health care and environmental costs.

Read the letter below.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.