The following speech is from Josh Lynch, who is leading the Commonwealth Challenge. This speech is from the rally on the eve of Earth Day, but Josh also introduced Representative Brownsberger during the Climate Awards the next morning. Thank you Josh for being apart of The Leadership Campaign.

Who is sleeping out tonight?

Where we live is important. Our home is where we spend most of our time. If you change someone’s home, in a sense you are changing that person. The Commonwealth Challenge is a campaign to spark an energy revolution in Massachusetts, starting with our homes. By retrofitting homes to save energy, we are creating green jobs, reducing carbon pollution, saving money on energy bills, and challenging elected officials to follow our lead. We are also making a change that lives with us every day.

The idea of the Commonwealth Challenge was born out of Copenhagen. In December 2009, 133 world leaders came to the most important environmental conference in history, the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. In spite of the passionate calls of millions of global citizens including the Leadership Campaign last Fall, what they delivered was a non-binding agreement stating what countries had already committed to. That is simply not good enough.

When the science said we needed to keep global warming below 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, leaders produced an accord that would raise temperatures to 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The gap between where we are headed and where we need to go is a canyon.

So, it seems we cannot count on Presidents and Prime Ministers to solve this crisis. How about Governors and State Legislators? Yeah! Massachusetts has done a lot to address global warming, right? We’ve got RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, MassSAVE, and the Global Warming Solutions Act. How are we doing? Well, let’s see. In 1990 the average person in Massachusetts burned about 13.5 tons of carbon pollution per year (reach above head). Now, 20 years later, that number has gone down to 13.3 tons per year – about 1.6% (reach slightly lower). 20 years. 1.6 percent. Uh oh.

Compared to a lot of other states, that is actually progress. Unfortunately, the atmosphere doesn’t give points for effort.

We have a leadership gap. So, what can we do? It’s time to take this problem into our own hands. On March 4th 32 partner organizations and businesses came together to launch the Commonwealth Challenge. We decided to combine political action with personal leadership. We decided to light the way toward a just and stable future through our actions, and challenge leaders to follow our footsteps. Tomorrow, along with all of you, we will deliver this Challenge to our elected officials.

How have we done? Well, in 7 weeks 265 people across Massachusetts have signed up to audit and retrofit their homes – they have taken the Commonwealth Challenge. 265. This action is not like signing a petition or making a phone call. This is bringing somebody into your house to seal up cracks and leaks, insulate walls, or replace old appliances. That can be uncomfortable, but the result is significant. For every person that takes just the first steps to weatherize their house, they will reduce about 800 pounds of carbon pollution and save 10% of their energy costs every year. For every 100 homes weatherized in Massachusetts, we generate a full-time green job for someone.

As we fight for a clean energy future, we have to fight to ensure access to that future for everybody. So often the places with the highest levels of poverty are the most polluted. If people have a choice between working in a green job or a grey job they will choose the green job. The problem is, people in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are not given that opportunity very often. By retrofitting our homes and asking companies to hire local workers with traditional barriers to employment, we are generating green collar jobs.

We know what we have to do. The science tells us that to avoid the worst climate impacts, we need to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 85-90% by 2050. So, in 10 years, we have to get from 13.5 tons of carbon per person per year (reach high) to 8 tons per year (reach neck level). It has been 40 years since the first Earth Day. In the next 40 years, we have to get to 2 tons per person per year (reach low). That is going to take hard work and leadership. And believe me, our leaders cannot do it alone.

The just and stable future we seek, starts right here, right now. Let’s show Massachusetts how it’s done!

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