U.S. mayors promise climate action, rebuke Trump

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

U.S. mayors voted today at their annual meeting in Miami Beach on resolutions aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions, approving a proposal to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2035.

If each of the 1,481 cities represented in the U.S. Conference of Mayors achieves zero-carbon emissions energy by 2035, national greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 619 million metric tons, according to an analysis by the Sierra Club.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) unveiled plans today for an initiative to support city leaders on climate and other pressing issues. Bloomberg Philanthropies will invest more than $200 million over the next three years in the new American Cities Initiative, according to a statement.

As part of the initiative, Bloomberg will host an innovation competition for cities. Up to 35 “champion cities” will be awarded $100,000 each to test and refine their ideas for tackling urgent challenges, including climate change. One city will win the $5 million grand prize; four others will receive $1 million implementation awards. In total, up to $17.5 million in grants and technical assistance will be provided to participating cities.

“We are in the middle of a political era defined by Washington impotence, but as Washington has grown more dysfunctional, cities have begun to play a vital role in determining our nation’s reputation as a global superpower,” Bloomberg told the gathering. “The American Cities Initiative will incentivize and support the innovative efforts of those cities paving the way for America’s future.”

Mayors will also cast votes on measures related to energy efficiency, conservation block grants and electric car infrastructure. One resolution calls for mayors to strengthen ties between cities to combat global warming and urges Congress and the Trump administration to reverse course on rolling back U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement.

Reducing the carbon footprint ranked top among the issues for the more than 250 U.S. mayors who gathered over the weekend, with many pushing back against the Trump administration’s environmental and climate policies (Greenwire, June 23).

During a press conference Saturday hosted by the Climate Mayors network — a group formed to build off an Obama administration climate task force — mayors from California, Florida, Louisiana and other states on the front lines emphasized their cities’ commitments.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) spoke of a “groundswell” of support for climate action.

“When the White House opted out, mayors across the U.S. opted in. And whoever comes after us — they may not know our names — but we want to leave them a clean, safe planet,” Garcetti said.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado (R) said his administration had been getting pictures of flooding from the residents.

“They don’t say they’re Democrat or Republican. They say, ‘We need help,'” Regalado said. “We’re looking to Washington, but we’re not hopeful. So we’re counting on us to keep Miami forever. This is about survival. That’s a nonpartisan issue.”

Knoxville, Tenn., Mayor Madeline Rogero (D) stressed cities’ commitment to work with businesses, states, universities and others on the Paris climate accord goals through the “We Are Still In” coalition, which was formed in the wake of the White House’s withdrawal announcement (E&E News PM, June 5).

“Whether in a red state or a blue state, a large metropolis or a midsized Southern city, we know that acting on climate creates economic opportunity, protects our citizens and positions our cities for long-term success,” Rogero said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), who has been criticized by climate skeptics for signing the “We Are Still In” pledge, said he was going to move forward with or without the federal government (Climatewire, June 6)

“As mayor of Boston, I’m speaking up for people who are feeling the effects of climate change firsthand,” Walsh said. “Even though our leaders in D.C. have turned their backs on this work, there’s no way we’re going to let up.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D) referred to his city as “the sea-level-rise capital of the world” and talked about efforts to raise roads and build pumps.

“I like to say that the ocean is not Republican, not Democrat, it just knows how to rise,” Levine said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D), an outspoken critic of Trump’s energy agenda, predicted national policy on climate change would emerge from U.S. cities working to cut emissions and become more resilient to sea-level rise.

“When Hurricane Katrina beat us down, the whole world looked and gasped as we lost the soul of a great American city,” Landrieu said. “Climate change is an existential threat. We are acting locally, but creating national policy.”