JBE Hurricane Ida

President Joe Biden greets Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, after arriving at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Biden traveled to Louisiana to survey storm damage from Hurricane Ida and meet with officials.

“We can’t afford to be more ‘pro oil and gas’ than the oil and gas companies,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow earlier this month.

Edwards was one of just a few U.S. governors invited to the international conference, which revisited the original action plans set in December 2015 by the Paris Agreement.

The governor's presence at the conference represents the culmination of efforts in his second term to more aggressively promote climate action in Louisiana.

In August 2020, Edwards created the Climate Initiatives Task Force to research and implement strategies that would bring Louisiana to net-zero emissions by 2050—the same standard set by President Joe Biden when he rejoined the Paris Agreement on his first day in office.

It is notable that Louisiana—a traditionally proud oil and gas state—has committed to net zero emissions, especially considering the open hostility our fellow oil and gas-dominated states have shown toward transitioning to clean energy.

That hostility was on full display when former President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would "cease all implementation" of the Paris Agreement in June 2017. In response to that decision, Democratic governors from California, New York and Washington formed the US Climate Alliance to ensure their states would stay on track to meet the carbon neutrality commitments made in Paris.

Louisiana joined the alliance last May as its first and, as of now, only Gulf Coast member. Our state's inclusion was a major shift for the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is still primarily comprised of left-leaning states.

These climate commitments are in addition to the massive coastal restoration effort that Louisiana has undertaken since 2007 to save an ever-retreating coastline. Since Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana has invested hundreds of millions of dollars toward saving the coastline after repeated devastation from record-shattering hurricanes.

Edwards has not cowed to Republican pressures to stay the course and appease oil lobbyists. Rather, he has set Louisiana on a path to be a leader in saving the Gulf and, more broadly, the planet. He should be commended for doing so, especially in a state so determined to maintain its petroleum industry. The world is leaving us behind, and recognizing that is crucial to Louisiana's continued survival.

To paraphrase the Governor, far too many in this state are more steadfast in their support of oil and gas than those very companies. We are not doomed to sink into the Gulf to protect the profits of ExxonMobil and Shell; there is a path forward, and Edwards has set us on that path.

Charlie Stephens is a 21-year-old political communications junior from Baton Rouge.

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