RELEASE: Arizona Leaders Highlight How Extreme Weather is Hurting the State, Creating an Urgent Need for Bold Climate Action and an End to Obstructionism

Washington D.C. – Today, in a press call hosted by Climate Power, Representative Tom O’Halleran, Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy, Superior Mayor Mila Besich, Mesa City Councilmember Francisco Heredia, and Jonathan Netzky, the founder of Local Alternative Foods, discussed how the dire state of the climate crisis is impacting Arizonans  and the urgent need for bold investments to combat climate change, modernize our infrastructure, and build a booming clean energy economy. 

The call comes on the heels of  President Joe Biden’s speech yesterday where he called for ambitious climate action included in his Build Back Better initiative. This would ensure Arizonans would be at the forefront of clean energy transition and combat the impacts of climate change bearing down on the state.

During the call, Arizona political and business leaders noted how these investments from President Biden would support  different communities across Arizona, including rural areas as well as Latino and Tribal communities. This would have big implications for the future of Arizona’s infrastructure and economic development by creating good-paying union jobs and improving the quality of life for hard-working families, boosting the economy. 

“We cannot continue to sit back and refuse to address this problem, not only in our cities, but throughout our rural areas,” said Representative Tom O’Halleran, who represents Arizona’s 1st Congressional District . “It’s not too late to take bold action. […] The greatest country in the world is long overdue for bold investments, to uplift working families, create new jobs, and address climate change. I know the leaders that have joined me here today agree. They’re taking actions at the state and local levels as well.” 

When asked how to overcome Republican obstruction on climate action during the question and answer session, O’Halleran said: “You can’t have some leaders within one party say they’re going to obstruct everything that President Biden wants. Obstruction is not good for the American people — it’s not good for our future. It’s not going to lead us to the solutions that are needed now.”

Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy highlighted that climate action is good for the economy, saying, This is not a zero-sum situation. We can benefit our economy. We can help protect the Earth. We can protect public health and our fellow Americans by taking swift, bold action.”

Noting the cost of inaction, Superior Mayor Mila Besich said, “In 2020, climate change disasters cost Arizona $21.1 billion, and that’s hurting businesses that towns like Superior depend on. We’re critically concerned about what the losses to our recreational spaces in the Tonto National Forest will do to our local economy.”

“We know firsthand the severe damage caused by climate change in our local communities. In particular, communities of color are suffering with climate wildfires, severe drought, and life-threatening heat.” said Mesa city councilmember Francisco Heredia. “Last year, 23% of the reported heat-related illnesses in the Arizona Emergency Departments were Latinos, people that work hard under the sun, that live in the heat-islands, and that many times, do not have access to air conditioning.” 

“Our economy cannot withstand the wrath of climate change,” said Jonathan Netzky, the founder of Local Alternative Foods. “Right now our businesses, and the communities that support us, are paying the price of climate inaction. We’re at a critical moment — passing legislation that would meaningfully address climate change while revitalizing, reimagining our infrastructure presents a massive opportunity for our economy. Our leaders cannot let this moment pass us by.”

Arizona’s already robust clean energy sector stands to benefit tremendously from the climate and clean energy investments within Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. The state is already a leader in clean energy, ranking 19th in the nation in terms of clean energy employment and with more than 62,000 clean energy jobs as of 2019. 

For a copy of the call’s recording, email Meghan Schneider at [email protected].