City of Tucson Climate Emergency Declaration: The Importance of Acting Now

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COURTESY REGINA ROMERO
  • Courtesy Regina Romero

Mayor Regina Romero and Council Member Paul Durham have proposed a Tucson Climate Emergency Declaration as part of a nationwide call for mobilization to act locally and think globally as a community of communities.

This declaration focuses on issues relevant to our Southwest region needs, including resource conservation, restoring and rehabilitating ecosystems through green infrastructure, and carbon sequestration with a focus on massive tree planting.

A comprehensive climate action and adaptation plan is needed to ensure good quality jobs for a just and equitable transition as we recover from our current COVID-19 crisis. These efforts need community support and adoption. Local First Arizona is in full support.

The climate emergency is indeed the greatest emergency. Scientists have put the crisis in sharp focus: we have less than a decade to act before there is irreversible damage to our communities and economy.

As the largest local business coalition in the country, Local First Arizona supports the established science and our sustainability programs focus on taking action to support both businesses and the community through plans and strategies that are cost-effective and provide long-term economic and community benefits. Our award-winning SCALE UP project planning program provides support for businesses and nonprofits focused on beneficial sustainability strategies that also support the community’s needs in our current crisis.

We are already experiencing realities of the climate crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations finds that zoonotic diseases such as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus are spreading with greater frequency due to human activity, including industrial farming and deforestation.



Climate change and inequity are inextricably linked as the climate crisis does not affect all people equally; low-income communities and communities of color are affected first and most gravely by climate impacts, including extreme heat and flooding. These communities are already struggling because they receive fewer resources causing them to be even less prepared.

Additionally, there is a disproportionate death toll from COVID-19 among Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people due to long-term health care inequities.

Air quality is another major factor to prioritize for accelerated action. According to a Duke University study, staying below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) will lead to major benefits for society, including:

• Air quality and climate benefits and avoided deaths, which combined are valued at more than $37 trillion;

• Avoided health care spending due to reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits exceeding $37 billion;

•Increased labor productivity valued at more than $75 billion.

On average, this amounts to over $700 billion per year in benefits to the US from improved health and labor alone, far more than the cost of the energy transition.

Sustainable business practices are an integral part of a more resilient, regenerative and human economy. Long-term economic vitality depends on creating conditions and opportunities that will unlock the vast potential for equitable wealth creation while providing many opportunities for community members disproportionately impacted by climate issues. 

We must act boldly to support the work being done for climate action and justice by groups such as the youth-led organization Arizona Youth Climate Coalition, which is focused on the intersectionality of the climate issue that directly affects Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, youth, and frontline workers. Our actions now will create a Southern Arizona community that is equitable, safe, and thriving which can then provide for the livelihoods of all of us.

Tucson has a real opportunity to take climate action and demonstrate historic leadership on an urgent crisis affecting all of us, and in particular which affects low-income communities and people of color. Now is the time to support the Tucson Climate Emergency Declaration, which will propel Tucson into the future as a model sustainable city with inclusive economic development, new economy solutions, and equitable community benefits.

Michael Peel is the Statewide Sustainability Director for Local First Arizona. Contact Michael at mike@localfirstaz.com. For more information about Local First Arizona, visit localfirstaz.com.

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