MONTREAL - December 8 - American mayors hailing from Seattle, WA to Keene, NH will speak at the international global warming treaty negotiations in Montreal today, aiming to demonstrate that real action on global warming is happening in cities across the United States. The mayors say the threats global warming pose to their communities are real, and the solutions to the problem will create jobs, cut costs and cut harmful air pollution.
With a vacuum of leadership from the U.S. administration on global warming, state and local governments have been the primary force in addressing one of the greatest challenges of our time. Led by Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle, nearly 200 mayors have signed onto the Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce global warming pollution by 7 percent below 1990 levels, meeting the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol.
"The U.S. leads the world in global warming pollution when we should to be leading it toward a solution," Nickels said. "That is why it is so important for cities to step up and provide the leadership that is lacking in Washington D.C."
Joining Mayor Nickels in this Montreal event, either in person or calling from their hometowns, are Minneapolis Mayor RT Ryback; Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez; Santa Monica, California Mayor Pam O'Connor; Keene, New Hampshire Mayor Michael E.J. Blastos; and Bellevue, Nebraska Mayor Jerry Ryan.
Global warming adversely affects cities and their residents. Stronger storms and hurricanes, like the record-breaking storm season this year and the severe floods in the Northeast, are caused by warming seas and climate disruption. Global warming will also continue to cause more dangerous heat waves like the 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed hundreds.
"Global warming poses a real, urgent threat to our way of life," said Minneapolis Mayor RT Ryback. "Solutions to global warming not only improve our environment and health, but also create jobs, spur innovation, and allow government to run more efficiently."
The solutions can be as positive as the impacts are negative. Clean energy technologies can create both high-tech and blue-collar jobs. Less pollution means fewer unhealthy red alert air days in urban areas. And cutting pollution could reverse the dangerous storm trend scientists say warming pollution has helped create.
"The city of Albuquerque is committed to cutting our global warming pollution by 70 percent," said Mayor Chavez. "This is an excellent opportunity to work with business, local leaders and residents to take real action on a serious problem."
Cities are finding myriad solutions to global warming, and finding cost-cutting measures in the process:
- Seattle has purchased nearly 150 hybrid government vehicles, saving money in fuel costs.
- Keene, NH developed and enacted their Local Action Climate Plan, aiming to reduce the city's carbon emissions from transportation, energy use and solid waste by 10 percent.
- Santa Monica, CA has implemented a program in which employers who lease their parking will pay the employee the cost of the parking space to give it up and rideshare to work, reducing total annual miles traveled by 544,000.
- Minneapolis, MN recently turned the challenge of an over-crowded police precinct into one of the community's most innovative green buildings, saving over $10,000 per year in energy costs.
"The rising tide of global warming is a serious threat to all beach communities like Santa Monica" said Mayor O'Connor. "We're taking action -- from using power generated from renewable sources to promoting new green buildings and technologies to working with cities worldwide to stem that tide."
Montreal, Canada is hosting the meeting on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty to curb global warming emissions. This is the first meeting since the treaty entered into force earlier this year, which created for the first time a multi-billion dollar trading market for global warming pollution. It has drawn approximately 10,000 participants, including delegates from 189 countries and the European Union.
The main intent of the meeting is to establish a timetable and process for continuing mandatory reductions of global warming after 2012, when the current treaty is set to expire. The U.S. delegation has been an obstructionist force in the meetings, even while developed and developing countries from around the world are moving forward on making pollution cuts, taking full advantage of the newly-created market that will spur technological innovation and create economic opportunities.
"While the administration blocks negotiations here in Montreal, cities are moving forward," said David Doniger, policy director for NRDC's (Natural Resources Defense Council) Climate Center. "Cities are cutting pollution and cutting costs, but the administration is blind to this progress."
States have also taken a significant role in addressing global warming pollution. Led by Governors from both parties, states on both seaboards are reaching agreements to cut their global warming pollution. California's clean car standards that cut global warming pollution from vehicles have been adopted by several states including New York, and are expected to comprise 40 percent of all new car sales in the United States and Canada once all participating states adopt the new rules.