U.S. Mayors Take the Lead in Fighting Climate Change

Los Angeles (June 25, 2007)- Cities throughout the country, regardless of size, have initiated a host of actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, without significant support from their state and federal partners, finds a new survey released Friday during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 75th anniversary meeting in Los Angeles.

As of June 21, 540 mayors had signed The U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing to reduce carbon emissions in cities below 1990 levels, in line with the United Nations Kyoto Protocol. The agreement is needed “due to an absence of federal leadership,” the Conference says.
Of the 134 mayors who provided data for this first assessment of city climate protection efforts, more than four out of five said their cities now use renewable energy, or are considering beginning by next year.
Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton, New Jersey heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors (Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor) “This survey clearly shows that mayors are acting decisively to curb global warming, helping fill the void left by federal inaction,” said Conference President Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton, New Jersey. “Mayors are leading the way by implementing successful strategies to change human behavior and help protect the planet.”
All but four of the survey cities, or 97 percent, are using more energy-efficient lighting technologies in public buildings, streetlights, parks, traffic signals, and other applications, or expect to by next year.
Seventy-two percent of the responding mayors said that their city fleets now run on alternative fuels and/or use hybrid-electric technology.
Nearly nine in 10 of the cities require, or anticipate requiring in the next year, that new city government buildings be more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.
More than three out of four of the cities are undertaking efforts to encourage the private sector to construct buildings that are energy efficient and use sustainable building techniques.
During his address to the more than 200 mayors from across the nation gathered in Los Angeles, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today applauded them for their work to fight climate change.
“Whether it is Mayor Bloomberg using hybrids to create the largest and cleanest fleet of taxis in the world, or Mayor Villaraigosa transforming the L.A. Department of Water and Power to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, your leadership is more important than ever,” said the governor.
“By taking action to make sure the people in your communities are doing their part for the environment, you are sending a powerful message to the federal government and to the rest of the world. And that is exactly what we have been doing in California,” said Schwarzenegger.
To fight climate change, California is party to Memorandums of Understanding with other states, nations and Canadian provinces, including Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah, the State of Victoria in Australia, British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba. The governor said these agreements expand markets for clean fuels, cars and emissions credits across borders, allowing emission reductions at the lowest possible cost.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, shakes hands with Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa after his speech to the Conference of Mayors while Mayor Douglas Palmer, left, looks on. (Photo courtesy U.S. Conference of Mayors)
Governor Schwarzenegger introduced the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in January, which utilizes enforceable standards, market competition and flexible compliance to reduce emissions. By 2020, it will require a reduction in the carbon intensity of California’s passenger vehicle fuels of at least 10 percent.
The survey of mayors also found that more than nine out of 10 cities consider efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to be part of their broader efforts to address public health concerns, such as improving air quality or encouraging active living.
In nearly three in four of the cities, mayors have reached out to other mayors, elected county officials, or other leaders in the region to encourage them to sign on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and/or take action on climate protection.
Topping the Conference of Mayors’ 10 Point Plan announced Friday by Mayor Palmer is the creation of an Energy and Environmental Block Grant to support mayors’ efforts to reduce energy dependence, decrease carbon emissions, and improve the environment. The mayors are working with members of Congress to get this legislation enacted.
If the Energy and Environmental Block Grant now pending in Congress is adopted, half of the cities say they will use the funds provided through it to improve community energy efficiency.
Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran said, “This survey demonstrates the high level of innovation and creativity that U.S. mayors are employing to create more sustainable communities. This is not a new phenomenon, since mayors are often at the forefront of positive change.”
Mayors Martin Chavez of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dan Coody of Fayetteville, Arkansas have been awarded First Place honors in the 2007 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards Program. The awards, announced Saturday, recognize mayors for outstanding innovations to increase energy efficiency and to help curb global warming.
Mayor Martin Chavez of Albuquerque, New Mexico took top honors for his climate change efforts. (Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor) Albuquerque Mayor Chavez was selected to receive the first place award in the large city category for the AlbuquerqueGreen Program, a multifaceted, integrated approach with action-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its impacts on climate change.
Under the AlbuquerqueGreen program the city has changed the way it operates, resulting in cutting natural gas by 42 percent, and refrigerants by 95 percent, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 67 percent since the program began in 2000. AlbuquerqueGreen promotes the growth of green-tech companies, bicycle use, and pedestrian-friendly, mixed use urban village initiatives. The city is now requiring all new buildings to be carbon neutral and powered from 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody received first place award in the Small City category. Through his leadership, the city of Fayetteville’s Alternative Transportation and Trail Master Plan has created 129 miles of multi-use trails and 163 miles of on-street linkages to the city.
The goal of this program is to establish alternative modes of transportation and active recreation as an integral part of daily life.
Outstanding Achievement Awards were also bestowed on:
Austin Mayor Will Wynn for his program to make all city facilities, fleets and operations carbon neutral by 2020
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon for her Energy Conservation Program, which serves as a strong city-wide model to reduce the City’s cost and consumption of energy. This project also included incorporating an energy reduction project at 180 public school buildings in Baltimore, as well as in 33 city buildings.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for his “Smart Bulb Program,” the first program in the nation that has distributed 500,000 free compact fluorescent light bulbs to residents.
Related Resources:
U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Center
Environmental News Service