Going It Alone

By Stateside Associates

While Congress continues to argue over climate change legislation, many local governments have decided to stop waiting for federal mandates, and instead are taking the lead on climate change. Look at New York City, San Francisco and Washington, DC. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched “PlaNYC” in 2007 with the goal of reducing citywide carbon emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. San Francisco adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2002 to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by the year 2012. And Washington, DC launched “Green DC” in April, which establishes a “blueprint for a healthier, more sustainable city.”

Last week Mesa, Arizona Mayor Scott Smith became the 1,000th signatory to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s (USCM) Climate Protection Agreement. USCM President, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels introduced the agreement in 2005 with 141 original mayors signing. By signing the Agreement, mayors commit to reduce emissions in their cities to seven percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. USCM also established a “Climate Protection Center” in 2007, to provide assistance to the mayors in achieving the goal.

USCM clearly notes on their website that they are not going to wait on the federal government when it comes to climate change: “The establishment of the Mayors Climate Protection Center takes us a giant step beyond advocacy of a stronger federal role in reducing emissions. It acknowledges that while mayors recognize the need for a federal partner in this effort, they cannot and will not wait to act until Washington is ready to move on this problem.”

Cities are not the only local governments active on climate change. The National Association of Counties (NACo) launched its Green Government Initiative in 2007. The program provides comprehensive resources for local governments on all things green, including green government best practices, technical assistance training, information sharing and green products and services. Counties are encouraged to show off by uploading videos to YouTube on their green government efforts. (http://www.youtube.com/NACoVideo).

With all of this action by local governments on climate change, it is no surprise that they are asking Congress to enact legislation that recognizes and assists climate change actions by cities and counties. USCM passed a climate change resolution at its Annual Meeting in June that included urging the President and Congress to “enact ‘cap and trade’ legislation that supports local government initiatives and reduces greenhouse emissions.” In July at its Annual Conference, NACo passed a resolution urging “Congress to provide financial and technical assistance to local governments to help develop and implement local climate change adaption and mitigation plans and projects.”

It remains to be seen how Congress will treat local governments in the final version of the climate change legislation. Will all of the cities and counties early efforts on climate change be for naught?

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