The New American Road Trip is an 11-day, more than 2,900-mile journey in an electric vehicle from San Francisco to New York’s 10th Climate Week and the One Planet Summit. Its purpose is to deliver the Call to Global Climate Action issued from the Global Climate Action Summit and to discuss its implications with the public. By Nick Nuttall, Global Climate Action Summit. 

Road Trip Update: Citizens, Clean Bus Campaigners, MGM Resorts CEO and UN Special Envoy Bloomberg Join ‘Road Trip’ in Las Vegas for Free E-Test Drives and Special Award

Sept. 16, 2018—The New American Road Trip rolled past the world’s largest thermometer in Baker into Las Vegas, Nevada, yesterday—the irony of holding an event in a city famous for gambling not lost on the team.

Jess Hines of Purpose, which put together the road trip from the Global Climate Action Summit to Climate Week, said: “Gambling in Vegas is one thing, but we can’t gamble with our climate and the future of our kids.”

Outside the Luxor Hotel with its Egyptian-themed façade including a giant Sphinx, our light-blue electric compact was joined by others to host a rally with famous names like Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change. The event also offered free electric test drive experiences with Chevy, Honda, Nissan and Toyota vehicles for locals and tourists alike.

The drivers were engaged by our two comedians, JC Coccoli and Guy Branum—the latter also a writer on a variety of shows including Totally Biased.

Shining a light on US clean energy and electric transportation

Before the drive and to the beat of our event’s DJ, bedecked in a shirt sparkling in the strong desert sun, actress, singer and environmental campaigner Antonique Smith took to the stage as the show’s MC.

“We are here because of the New American Road Trip that is shining a light on all the great things happening in the towns and cities of the country as the United States embraces more and more clean energy and electric transportation—so we are here in part to celebrate.

“Las Vegas itself is increasingly powered and connected to the beautiful landscape that surrounds it,” she said, referring to some of the amazing solar projects springing up in the Mojave Desert, including the sci-fi-looking Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal installation, which we passed on the way into town.

She underlined that through clean energy Las Vegas is also playing its part in protecting poor communities, but that more action was needed locally, in the United States and across the world to protect vulnerable communities everywhere from dangerous climate change.

James Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, underlined his company’s commitment: “We have already built one of the largest solar arrays…and now we are building a 100-megawatt, 640-acre solar farm. When completed in a year and a half’s time, it will power 90 percent of all the energy we need—all 42,000 hotel rooms, all 3 million square feet of convention space, three arenas, 25 theatres and 450 restaurants,” he said.

Actioned underscored by Michael Bloomberg

Fresh from co-chairing the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco with other leaders like Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California, Michael Bloomberg underscored the action being undertaken by sub-national governments, businesses and citizens in America “reporting our progress to the rest of the world, just like every nation promised to do through the Paris Climate Agreement.” Over 500 commitments were made by GCAS delegates.

Through America’s Pledge, Bloomberg said, the United States was halfway to the goals set in Paris, “and we’re going to get the rest of the way there.”

“If you doubt we can, just think about this: Over the last 10 years, the U.S. has cut carbon emissions more than any large nation. Last year, our emissions continued to fall to the lowest level in 25 years—we’re making as much progress under this administration as we did under the last, and that story doesn’t get told nearly enough,” he said.

He added that the purpose of the New American Road Trip was to publicize such positive stories of change, which are happening everywhere.

Bloomberg also praised Nevada for rolling out electric vehicle charging points, with the stretch between Reno to Las Vegas now nearly fully equipped.

Other speakers included:

  • Ivon Meneses of the local chapter of Chispa Nevada Promotora (the League of Conservation Voters’ Latino Organizing Program for Climate Action) spoke passionately about the campaign to replace diesel buses with alternative fueled vehicles in Nevada to protect children and citizens from asthma and lung disease.
  • Alfonso Lopez of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 88 said union members were “every day fighting climate change” through the installation of energy-savings systems and products in homes and other buildings. Those efforts are in turn employing some 2 million workers across America, but he urged more training and skills-building for such workers, saying that in some cases at least half of the savings of energy improvements were being lost because not all workers are trained to install the new products.
  • Las Vegas Fire Capt. Richard Birt described how, in helping communities in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, solar power was able to get firefighting and medical services back up and get the 911 emergency phone network running after power lines had been shredded.

Our team’s event ended with a $7,000 prize to Chispa, Nevada, with their project Clean Buses for Healthy Niños.

The day was part festival and part rally that united climate and health campaigners from the worlds of philanthropy, civil society, entertainment, workers and emergency services with a curious and interested public.

Next stop: Utah!

The New American Road Trip is being organized by Purpose with support from foundations including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Hewlett Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the IKEA Foundation and the ClimateWorks Foundation. Follow the progress of the road trip online here.

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