The climate is changing. From ocean acidification to increasing threat of wildfire and thawing permafrost, Alaska is on the frontlines. However, Alaska is also in the unique position to serve as a global leader in equitable, innovative solutions to climate change impacts while creating opportunities across the state. This summer, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is engaged in a new effort to inform and educate Alaskans on the merits of bipartisan climate solutions: the Alaska Climate Opportunities Assessment.
We commissioned McKinley Research Group to research Alaska’s unique opportunities to address climate change and assess the economic and political implications of current and future investments and policies. We’re also hosting several in-depth virtual panel discussions covering topics including Alaska’s renewable energy economy, climate innovation and resilient infrastructure across the state, Indigenous leadership on climate, and natural climate solutions. We’re hearing from young Alaskan climate leaders, Alaska Native leaders, innovators from the business and technology sectors, and fishermen and women. Our expert panelists come from different backgrounds, different professions, and different political camps, but agree on two things: 1) the climate is changing, with impacts felt in Alaska today, and 2) Alaska has an important role to play in finding new ways to mitigate the impacts of that change. Many of you are tuning in to hear what these experts have to say, and we hope that each panel serves as a valuable experience and underscores both the urgency of climate action needed in Alaska as well as the exciting potential for innovation and growth across our state.
At The Nature Conservancy in Alaska, our mission has always been to create a world where people and nature thrive — a mission that many Alaskans can relate to. Across the state, regardless of political affiliation, Alaskans understand that when nature thrives, we thrive, too. Interconnected as we are, a just transition away from fossil fuels must rely on local and indigenous knowledge, addressing climate change for the future generations who will call Alaska home.
At the national level, bipartisan action is critical to addressing these challenges, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski understands the vital role that reaching across the aisle plays in working on behalf of Alaska’s interests. Sen. Murkowski wrapped up her chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources committee by passing a monumental overhaul to the nation’s energy policy: the Energy Act of 2020. The Act focuses on investing in clean energy technologies and provides upward of $100 million toward an energy storage and grid integration program, inspired (at least in part) by the success seen in Cordova with the Cordova Electric Cooperative.
Sen. Murkowski built on the progress achieved in the Energy Act with her involvement in and support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that recently passed the Senate. Both Sens. Murkowski and Dan Sullivan voted for the infrastructure bill, and we hope Rep. Don Young will help it pass in the House. The bill will invest $550 billion in roads, bridges, waterways, clean energy innovation and upgrading of our electric grid — all of which benefit Alaska and help support the continued investment in our transition away from fossil fuels. Such sustained bipartisan support for clean infrastructure shows a clear desire across the political spectrum for securing a resilient and clean energy future.
Earlier this summer, Sen. Murkowski also announced energy technology development funding for Alaska tribes alongside Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. One of the keys to unlocking climate and economic success in Alaska involves sustainable, affordable energy sources — and the funding of over $5 million reduces energy costs and increases energy resilience for seven tribes across Alaska.
Alaskans from all walks of life are working toward energy resilience, economic security and climate mitigation. We are lucky to have solution-driven leaders who are working to make a difference on these issues and to have the bipartisan, multi-sector will — from tech company CEOs to fishermen and women and young Alaskans — to make Alaska a leader for global climate solutions. So far, our climate and economic wins have come from cross-coalition, wide-sweeping action — there’s no reason to stop now.
Stephanie Holthaus is the Climate Action Advisor for The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. She also serves as the Women on Climate Lead for the Nature Conservancy North America. The Nature Conservancy in Alaska’s Climate Opportunities Assessment is an ongoing effort in which Alaskan leaders and stakeholder groups are engaging on climate, the opportunities arising due to climate, bipartisan solutions and the long-term health of the Last Frontier. Learn more about the Alaska Climate Opportunities Assessment at the Nature Conservancy’s website.
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