1000th US mayor signs climate agreement—but most still aren’t prepared for climate impacts

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A total of 1000 US mayors have now signed their names to the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a milestone being celebrated in Seattle this weekend, where 60 mayors are attending the group’s Leadership Meeting. The three-pronged Agreement centers on cutting heat-trapping pollution emissions in their own cities and towns, while urging their governors and the federal government to adopt CO2 reduction targets.  But it doesn’t call for planning or preparedness for climate change impacts.  On the agenda is the economic recession and “green” economic recovery; this would also be a good opportunity for the mayors to talk about climate change impacts, and to learn from one another how they can best prepare and adapt. 

post by Anne Polansky

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (http://www.usmayors.org) Climate Protection Agreement was the brainchild of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in early 2005.  By 2007, 500 mayors had signed, and yesterday the 1000th mayor to sign was Scott Smith of Mesa, Arizona.  (See full list of signatories, here.)

Located just outside of Phoenix, Mesa has a population larger than that of Cleveland, Miami, or Minneapolis. 

Mayor Smith’s “six critical elements to Building a Better Mesa” don’t mention climate or the environment, and so far Mesa has no city-wide climate plan.  This might be a good time to start—in fact, the logic behind the Climate Protection Agreement is to encourage mayors to start thinking and planning out how they will deal with the climate change threat.  Yesterday the Mayor said that “not all the mayors agree on how to deal with climate change but they do have a common goal of responsible environmental stewardship.” 

Mesa has a few challenges: 

In a 2008 ranking of 50 major US cities, this is how Mesa came in: 

—48th (out of 50) for its water supply

—46th for air quality

—41st for having a green economy  

—25th for water quality

Under the Agreement, participating cities commit to take following three actions:

•  Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;

•  Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol—7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and

• Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system

In an interview at the meetings, Mayor Nickels noted all of the harmful effects of climate change in cities across the country, claiming, “That is why so many mayors have signed the Climate Protection Agreement.”

He said: 

New Orleans suffers from sea level rise and storm intensity.  Phoenix suffers from intense summer heat and increases in heat-related mortality.  Boston suffers from stress on its water and energy systems…. We know that global warming is endangering our cities.  We know that we need a federal partner to help solve this global threat.  Whether by regulation or by legislation, it is time for federal action to curtail greenhouse gas pollution and reduce the danger our residents face from global warming.   (Emphasis added)

Seattle is fairly far up the learning curve on climate change preparedness and CO2 mitigation efforts, as are Chicago, New York City, and Miami.  Other cities, like Mesa, have some catching up to do.

It’s time to heed these calls for some federal help, President Obama.   

 

 

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