Climate Week NYC 2023 Opening Ceremony

Published: 9/17/2023

​​​​Remarks as prepared
​Delivered on Sunday, September 17, 2023​​

What’s going on Climate Week NYC!

It is a true honor to be here with each and every one of you – because I stand behind this podium
as probably one of the most improbable governors you’ve ever met.

I am the son of an immigrant single mom who didn't get her first job that gave her benefits until I
was 14 years old.

I felt handcuffs on my wrists by the time I was 11.

Before running for governor, I’d never held elected office in my life.

And look: I’m new to politics. But I’m not new to working in our communities. And throughout
my life, I’ve seen the damage of the climate crisis up close.

In fact, just before running for governor, I led one of the largest poverty-fighting organizations in
the country, and I saw how climate change was already impacting our poorest neighborhoods.

The climate crisis isn’t some far-off threat, it’s already here. And that’s especially true for those
who’ve been historically left behind.

My state of Maryland is 70% water-lined and water-locked, so when there’s a big storm, it can
take weeks for low-income neighborhoods to recover.

My state has some of the worst heat islands in the nation, and our public school students were
sent home this month because their classrooms got too hot.

We cannot punt on this issue.

And it’s why in the State of Maryland, I’ve been very clear that we are going to achieve 100%
clean energy by 2035 – and net-zero emissions by 2045. And we’re going to be unapologetic
about it.

Hitting our goals will help us defend against the consequences of climate change. But I’m not
here to just talk about avoiding tragedy – I’m here to talk about helping people find greater

Because when we invest in clean energy and reduce emissions, we don’t just help the planet – we
create good-paying jobs. And those jobs have the power to reshape our economy in a way that
works for everyone.

Our communities of color – our working parents – our middle-class families: They are the ones
who stand to benefit most from our aggressive climate goals.

Those are the hands that will install new solar panels at the local rec center.

Those are the minds that will invent next-generation wind turbines that power millions of homes.

Those are the hearts that will shape a stronger America, where we aren’t just building pathways
to sustainability – we’re also building pathways to work, wages, and wealth.

It's not enough to ask people to see themselves in the consequences – they need to see
themselves in the progress. Climate justice is economic justice.

You know, I remember on the campaign trail, I made a big climate speech in Baltimore...

I finished the speech feeling pretty good about myself. And an African American man came up
to me and told me he appreciated the speech but didn't understand why I was talking about
climate change when it wasn't the most important issue in our community. The economy was.

So I told him: “This is about the economy!”

"This is about whether or not we can dominate industries of the future, instead of relying on
industries of the past.”

“This is about whether or not we can bring manufacturing jobs home, instead of relying on
foreign labor.”

“This is about whether or not the clean energy revolution will close the wealth gap, instead of
being just another way to make it bigger.”

And I’ll be honest: I still don’t know if I convinced him.

For this man to go from skeptic to believer, we need to give him more than talking points – we
need to give him results.

The next time I’m at a rally and I see him, I need to be able to say:

“Look at how many entrepreneurs of color are building businesses in the clean energy space.”

“Look at how many young people are on a path to make six figures building wind turbines right
out of high school – instead of getting six figures of debt to earn a four-year degree.”

Now, it’s up to us to build our coalition by making sure people understand just how much they
stand to gain from the movement we’re building – and showing them exactly what that looks

This can’t be about partisan talking points. This can’t be about political punchlines. This is about
building an economy that works for everyone–

From our big cities to our rural towns–

From our Blue states to our Red ones–

From Wall Street to Main Street, and everywhere in between.

The climate crisis represents a generational opportunity to grow an economy that leaves no one
behind. And if we can help people recognize that truth, I know we will meet this moment, united
– and build a better, more sustainable, more resilient, and more equitable future for everyone.

Thank you all so much, and I’m wishing everyone a great Climate Week!