‘We don’t have time to waste’: Mayor and mom Regina Romero led Tucson, AZ to a climate plan


Tucson, Arizona, became one of the latest cities in the US to declare a Climate Emergency in September of 2020. And, led by Mayor Regina Romero, Tucson adopted a climate plan that includes clean energy, community planning, and a focus on the local residents who already suffer from the effects of climate change.

Mayor Romero brought a Climate Emergency Declaration to Tucson’s City Council meeting last September, after record-breaking months of heat in the city. And the Tucson heat is just part of the picture: as the proposal read, the effects will, “worsen the effects of major hazards such as wildfires, drought, extreme heat, and flooding.”

The number one action that citizens can take is to demand common sense solutions to tackle climate change from our leaders. All of us can support immediate action by the government to address global warming. 

For Tucson, climate change is not a distant idea; it is a present, daily threat. “We don’t have time to waste. It’s life or death,” Mayor Romero told KOLD News 13. “It is a public health issue as well.”

Tucson’s City Council agreed: the city declared a Climate Emergency at the September 9 meeting. The declaration included adopting a 10-year climate plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

The time is now

Stop sign warning of extreme heat

Graeme Maclean / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Mayor Romero led the charge for the new climate plan along  with City Councilman Paul Durham. Romero also credits the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition and Sunrise Tucson for their leadership on the climate emergency in Tucson. Most important, the plan she and Durham championed is based in science, relying on input from researchers like Gregg Garfin, an Associate Professor and specialist for the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Garfin works to bring scientific data into community planning discussions. “We can expect more very hot days and hot nights as we move into the future,” he says. And Professor Garfin is clear on the urgent need for action: “Every day that we put off taking action on climate change, it’s another day that we are adding to the burden of future generations.”

Sound expensive?

Coins spill from a jar.

Unsplash / Michael Longmire

Mayor Romero doesn’t think so. Not when you compare it to higher electric bills to survive the heat, and the cost of responding to more frequent and worse droughts. “You can pay for it now or you can pay for it later,” agrees Professor Garfin. “If we pay for it later, it will cost a lot more.”

An advisory council will implement this Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. The city’s public transit will be converted over time to an electric fleet. New infrastructure will incorporate sustainable design, water conservation efforts will be ramped up, city waste will be decreased, and the Tucson Million Trees Initiative will plant more trees.

All of this is an investment in Tucson’s future. “Even half a degree more of warming will significantly increase the damage from climate change and will undermine development and economies around the world,” Diana Liverman, director of the University of Arizona’s School of Geography and Development, explains at Tucson.com.

The climate plan is just Romero’s latest achievement


The daughter of immigrants, Regina Romero was the first in her family to graduate from college, and the first woman to represent Ward 1 in Tucson’s City Council. After rising through Tucson’s City Council as a leader in the city’s economic recovery, now Romero is ready to lead on Tucson’s climate plan.

Meanwhile, in her spare time, Mayor Romero and her husband, Ruben Reyes (who is a district director for a US Representative from Arizona), raise their two children, who she calls “bi-lingual, bi-cultural and bi-adorable.”

Local focus

A hand holds a camera lens focussed on the distance.


The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan calls for Tucson city departments to go carbon neutral by 2030. While it is in line with the Paris Agreement, the plan is designed for Tucson’s specific needs. It focuses on clean energy, which will be generated locally, and emphasizes communities that are already disproportionately impacted by climate change.

The climate crisis impacts every aspect of human experience,” said Kyle Kline, a University of Arizona student and Arizona Youth Climate Coalition advocate.

Tucson joins 1,767 cities worldwide

Descriptive map of arctic heat shows the emergency and need for a climate plan as temperatures rise.

Screenshot / @ScottDuncanWX

Around the globe, 1,767 jurisdictions have declared climate emergencies. And it is not just cities. Scotland and Wales both declared a climate emergency in April 2019. By May, all of the United Kingdom had joined them. Nations including Argentina, Austria, Canada, and Spain have declared a climate emergency. Climate advocacy group The Climate Mobilization is tracking over 200 U.S.-based emergency declarations and campaigns.

Add in local governments from around the world, and the number of people living under a declaration of climate emergency totals over 820 million.

There is no universal definition of a “climate emergency.” For some areas, these declarations offer a legal acknowledgment that allows access to funding to fight the effects of climate change. Where public health is concerned, this can allow authorities or agencies to take immediate action. In some cases, it is simply “an official recognition of an existential threat.”

Will the US develop a climate plan?

Boston skyline on a clear evening.

skeeze / Pixabay

Drought and wildfires in California, heatwaves in Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, and sea-level rise in Florida are all examples of how climate change is already affecting the US. Tucson joins other US cities that have declared a climate emergency, like San Diego and Boston. In Arizona, the Tucson heat is a concern, while in Massachusetts the main issue now is sea-level rise. Boston city councilor Matt O’Malley knows, “We can no longer afford to say we need to act on climate for our kids and our grandkids. The effects are happening now.”

Even though 76 local US governments have declared their own climate emergency, only 8% of Americans are covered by such a declaration. Compared to European nations, the US has been slow to officially recognize the climate crisis. Boston Councilor O’Malley fears the United States lags too far behind in accepting the facts, and in coming up with a plan.

This is where you come in

Unsplash / Bethany Beck

As a mother, you want the best future for your child, but climate change is threatening the planet that they will inherit. Science Moms aims to give moms the facts they need to be able to take action.

Busy parents don’t have time to dig around in the gobs of information out there. Having all of these climate facts in one place eases some of the burden while putting the science in accessible language.

Of course, it is important to do those individual actions like recycling and cutting down on food waste, but if we really want to tackle the climate crisis, we are going to have to think bigger! We need real action on a government level which is why Science Moms encourages you to reach out to your leaders and tell them exactly how important climate action is to you and your family.

Stand with Science Moms! Click here to send a letter to your Senators and Representative.

This sponsored article was produced and distributed in partnership with Potential Energy Coalition in support of the Science Moms campaign.

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