By Ari Phillips
Confronting climate change [was] a major agenda item at [last] week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Dallas, Texas, including climate protection awards, climate panels, and a discussion with U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz. Mayors signed the latest version of the Climate Protection Agreement — endorsed by over 1,000 mayors, it supports a national goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 amongst other things.
On Sunday, attendees also voted on a resolution encouraging cities to use natural solutions to fight climate change and “protect freshwater supplies, defend the nation’s coastlines, maintain a healthy tree cover and protect air quality.”
Democratic mayors from the Republican-leaning states Texas and Arizona, including Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, have backed the resolution. The conference is nearly split between Republican and Democratic mayors and the resolution only encourages action rather than mandating it. Leffingwell told the Associated press he thinks it will pass quickly, saying he thinks “the best strategy is not to get involved in partisan politics.”
Coming on the heels [of] the EPA’s recently unveiled Clean Power Plan that proposes carbon-pollution limits on existing power plants, states are already engaged in a heated debate over their role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. By taking action at a more local level, mayors can lead by example and avoid some of the political trappings that accompany efforts to initiate change at the state or national level.
“Mayors are already fighting the impact and costs of extreme weather caused by climate change. The actions they take to protect their cities and people can and should help states meet Clean Power Plan pollution limits,” said Danielle Baussan, Managing Director of Energy Policy at CAP. “Developing low-carbon energy policies underscores cities’ importance to critical national goals: reduced carbon pollution, increased consumer savings, and a healthier future for everyone.”
The Center for American Progress released an analysis of how cities can prepare for the carbon-pollution standards and help reduce their emissions. These include: reduce the carbon impact of municipal utilities, update building energy codes, promote distributed generation of renewable energy, consider tax credits and rebates for renewable energy and develop clean energy loan programs.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Gresham, Ore., Mayor Shane Bemis won the 2014 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards [at] the conference, which recognizes innovation in increasing energy efficiency and reducing GHGs.
“Mayor Goodman and Mayor Bemis are changing the energy future of their cities and the nation, showing how local innovation can offer solutions to our growing climate challenges,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, president of The U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Las Vegas is attempting to become the country’s first zero energy, water, and waste municipality.
“We are proud of our net zero initiative and the progress we are making,” said Goodman. “What is happening here in Las Vegas on energy innovation shouldn’t just stay here. All cities, as well as the nation, can benefit from net zero initiatives.”Φ
Ari Phillips is reporter for ClimateProgress.org. A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he received his bachelor of arts in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and dual master’s degrees in journalism and global policy studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He previously held internships with The Texas Observer, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan, and the Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law at The University of Texas School of Law.