Arizona holds a unique place in the United States’ quest for a fully sustainable economy. The Grand Canyon State is one of the fastest-growing and has an increasingly diverse and dynamic economy. Forbes has consistently ranked it near the top in job growth among all states. It’s also one of the hottest, driest areas of America. And to attract new business and maintain competitiveness nationally, it must focus on ways to support a healthy environment. To do so, various cities and organizations have come together as the Arizona Thrives alliance. The alliance – triggered by a report by the same name from the Nature Conservancy – is designed to unify efforts to protect and maintain an economy that is both clean and good for the environment.
The coalition brings together cities, state organizations, businesses, and individuals working together to align strategies and efforts that improve Arizona. The goal is to attract high-wage jobs, while also moving away from carbon-based fuels to clean energy. Additionally, Arizona Thrives wants to improve air quality, reduce heat impact, increase water security, and protect Arizona’s natural beauty.
More than 20 groups have joined in, including the cities of Flagstaff and Phoenix, Lyft, and the Nature Conservancy. Phoenix is already set to become carbon neutral by 2050, aligning with the goals of Arizona Thrives. It’s a city that is noticeably hotter than it once was, with temperatures and droughts expected to continue to increase.
“There are things [here] that are changing at a much faster rate,” said Tianna Chemello, Vice President of the Arizona State Chapter of the Society of Water and Environment Leaders. “We can clearly see the trend of what climate change and non-sustainable practices are doing to our personal lives.”
Arizona Thrives knows that the time is now for the state to move on sustainable processes. The alliance wants to solve current problems, while avoiding future ones if possible. Strategic priorities include How We Power our Economy, Where We Live and Work, and How We Move. Some of the group’s initiatives include:
- A reduction of barriers to increasing the number of electric vehicles
- Incentives for fuel-efficient cars
- Creation of cool islands and corridors in urban areas
- And improved forest management to reduce large-scale fires
Inclusivity is a key part of Arizona Thrives’ approach. Sustainability is about both innovation and equal access, especially in areas of the state that have not started the clean energy transition. Many residents do not yet have basic recycling programs.
“We need to work together to find inclusive answers to our problems, which means including the BIPOC and disabled communities that aren’t able to even address these issues because of the conditions that leave them without access to better options,” said Maria Cornejo-Terry, a member of the Barrett Sustainability Club at Arizona State University.
A cleaner, inclusive Arizona will make the state more desirable to people and corporations, creating a better economy and bolstering the job market in the long run. The state is one of many establishing itself as a clean energy leader as the administration also transitions towards a sustainable economy. Arizona Thrives wants the state to meet or exceed the federal Clean Air Act quality standard as soon as possible. The state’s move toward reducing carbon emissions seems to be in good hands with the coalition, which is a prime example of cooperation between industry and individuals. It’s a path forward that ensures Arizona remains a desirable and healthy place to live and work.