Tammy Bang Luu testifies on Capitol HillNote: This is the written testimony of Tammy Bang Luu, a witness in a May 12 ad-hoc hearing supported by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The event was convened by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Inter Alliance Dialogue, a coalition of human rights organizations, to amplify the voices of those most hurt by the economic crisis.

Good morning, my name is Tammy Bang Luu. I’m a senior organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles. We’re members of Grassroots Global Justice, an alliance of 60 U.S.-based grassroots groups organizing to build a agenda for power for working people, making connections between the local and regional issues we work on and the global context.

For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2). The planet now has 387 parts per million CO2 — and this number is rising by about 2 parts per million every year. Scientists are now staying that’s too much — it’s higher than any time in recorded history of our planet — and we’re already seeing the disastrous impacts on people and places all over the world. We need to adopt strict limits on carbon emissions. We need to support all national and global actions to stabilize CO2 concentrations below 350 parts per million and limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Rich countries that have been the major contributors to the climate crisis have an obligation to transfer substantial resources to poorer nations, which are bearing the brunt of global warming. The United States is one of the world’s largest historic and present-day emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). We must do more.

Since the 1980s, the environmental justice movement has been at the forefront of crafting sustainable solutions to local and global environmental and economic challenges. Community-based environmental justice groups have been pursuing a vision of community self-determination, green economic alternatives, sustainable use and replenishment of natural resources, and harmony with Mother Earth.

My colleague Jihan Gearon just laid out the danger of false solutions to the climate crisis we’re facing. We have an opportunity in this administration to develop real solutions.

The Federal Surface Transportation Act is set to expire in September. It’s historically known as the “Highway Bill,” with a formula that locks in 80% of the funds for freeways, highway and roads, and only 20% for public transportation. Growing emissions of greenhouse gases, air toxins, and smog producing pollutants have led to asthma, cancer, and respiratory attacks on our communities and to massive droughts, flooding, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events and impacts on national and international ecology. This formula must be turned on its head — 80% for public transportation, 20% for highway maintenance.

The transportation sector is responsible for 32% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the second largest source of CO2 in the U.S., behind only to electricity generation. The automobile is responsible for 60% of all transportation emissions (2007 EPA Emissions Inventory). With 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. generates close to half of the world’s automotive CO2.

Public transit systems throughout the country are falling apart at the seams with dwindling operating funds, resulting in cuts in service and fare increases. St. Louis, Missouri has lost 43% of their entire bus service because of severe cuts in operations funding. The State of California has virtually eliminated the State Transportation Assistance Fund, leaving a $2 billion hole that transit agencies across the state are trying to patch up. Dedicate a minimum of 50% of the Federal Surface Transportation Act for transit operations to prevent service cuts and enable service expansion; to stop massive fare increases and allow for fare reductions; and to protect existing green jobs while create new opportunities.

There’s an opportunity with clean renewable energy development and towards reversing the trend from exploitation toward energy justice. Tribal lands have an estimated:

  • 535 Billion kWh/year of wind power generating potential.
  • 7,000 Billion kWh/year of solar electricity generating potential, about 4.5 times the total U.S. annual generation.

Native tribes must be provided federal support to own and operate a new crop of renewable electricity generating infrastructure providing the dual benefits of low carbon power and green economic development.

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