While progress rolls backwards, reversing environmental regulations designed to protect our families health, the country’s mayors are losing no time in getting proactive in implementing solutions on how to combat climate change. They are preparing their cities for future eventualities, with an eye to innovation. US mayors have embarked on building the groundwork to protect the local populations.
Before the 85th annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), was held in Florida (June 23-June 26), I sat in on a press call where several mayors gave their personal reactions to Trump’s dismissal of the Paris agreement.
The consistent point of view was that the Trump administration’s stance was short-sighted, would impact the country’s political growth, and that it set up a “false choice” between jobs/industry and the environment. The main takeaway was that the federal government was off-track, and the private sector and mayors were ready to take the lead at the local level.
Highlights from the annual meeting of US Mayors:
Greg Stanton Mayor of Phoenix, Democrat:
“We have to do right by our children and grandchildren. Trump has abdicated. The eyes of the world are upon us. We’re local leaders. We are fighting drought in Arizona. It’s a local issue. We have entrepreneurs creating jobs. That what the President is missing. It’s a big mistake. We need to give people hope. The world is changing and there are new ways of delivering energy. We’re prepared to be adversaries.”
Elizabeth Kautz Mayor of Burnsville, Republican:
“The mayors won’t quit. We have signed the Kyoto agreement, formed partnerships with the mayors of the European Union, China and Mexico. We must protect the planet. We need to protect our water, and recharge aquifers. We’re celebrating a lot of successes. We don’t need Washington, D.C. to tell us the right thing to do. We will exceed Paris!”
Jonathan Mitchell Mayor of New Bedford, Democrat:
“We are the largest commercial fishing port in the United States. We have concerns about coastal issues and water. It is the singular issue of our day. Mayors are stepping into the void left by the federal government. We are leaders in solar, and are working on offshore wind initiatives. Our influence extends across the world. We are promoting a lower carbon footprint.”
Jim Brainard Carmel. Republican:
“My city is 90 percent Republican. But they want a good environment. Greatness is not how Trump sees it. We need to leave the earth in better shape. The American leadership will come from U.S. mayors. 85 percent of Americans live in cities. Mayors have to continue to make changes. You can’t presume that all Republicans stand with Trump. It’s up to mayors to make this a priority.”
The 85th Annual meeting took place in Miami Beach, a place that has plenty to worry about when it comes to sea-level rise. I watched that city’s mayor, Philip Levine, speak before he led a panel. He delivered his comments with good humor and plenty of jokes, but he was distinctly serious about the fact Miami was “not debating sea-level rise:”
“Residents and citizens must get involved. Sea level is caused by climate change. I want the city to become resilient. We’ve got to take action. It’s not a political issue. Rising oceans are not Republican or Democrat. We are the poster child for sea level rise. We’ve seen what it does.”
The conference passed numerous resolutions, including one titled: Supporting a Cities-Driven Plan to Reverse Climate Change. The closing statement read:
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls upon the Trump Administration and Congress to support the fight against climate change by fully committing themselves to Paris Climate Accord, the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Energy Incentive Program, and other efforts that will provide cities the tools they need to combat climate change.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who took over the mantle of President of the USCM, was clear to his colleagues about their mission. “In these times, let’s be bold. It’s our time,” he said.
It’s encouraging to see America’s mayors stepping up to lead the fight against climate change. As parents, we need to continue pressuring our elected officials to follow sound science and uphold our health protections.
Graphic via Compact of Mayors