You know those mayors defying Trump on the Paris climate agreement? Call em to say thanks
Hundreds of U.S. mayors are demonstrating one way to resist Donald Trump’s climate and energy agenda: They’ve joined an alliance pledging to keep supporting the Paris climate agreement that Trump has announced he will abandon.
Activists ought to link arms with these mayors, phone or write them, and applaud them for taking a stand against the White House’s recklessly backward thinking. However, a few words of citizen support isn’t all the mayors require to live up to their pledge. (More about that in a moment.)
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo have shown that the alliance of mayors has international potential. They’ve written a joint essay for The New York Times declaring: “We Have Our Own Climate Deal”:
Last week, President Donald Trump tried to pit our two cities against each other when he announced, in pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” As the mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris, we’re here to say that we’re more united than ever.
Though separated by an ocean and a language, we share a desire to do what is best for our citizens and our planet. That means putting aside parochial politics and embracing the global challenge of fighting climate change. In doing so, we can create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world for Parisians, Pittsburghers and everyone else on the planet. […]
We are both members of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which represents more than 7,400 cities around the world committed to local climate action. Pittsburgh is one of nearly 250 cities in the United States, representing 56 million Americans, whose mayors have committed to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The mayors started signing on with the alliance within hours of Trump delivering that dreadful Rose Garden withdrawal address, a speech densely packed with exaggerations and concoctions and outright lies about climate change and the effects of the Paris agreement. In their joint statement, the mayors agree to stick with the commitments to the goals of the agreement, and do their part to try to keep the planet below the aspirational target of a 2.7-degree Fahrenheit increase in average global temperatures. They say:
We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.
The world cannot wait — and neither will we.
Activists should focus on encouraging the mayors to remain on that path, and see which ones are all talk and no walk. And, of course, there are thousands of mayors who haven’t joined the alliance to stick with Paris goals. They deserve phone calls asking why they haven’t gotten it together.
For some people, work or school or other commitments will permit no time for more than a phone call or a quick note of praise for a mayor who shows she gets it.
But for those not so pinched for time, who have become energized by the resistance to Trump on a broad range of issues, the mayors’ resistance offers the chance to contribute more fully in developing or remaking programs to cut carbon emissions and ameliorate the impacts of climate change. These projects are usually best achieved with a team effort, but dedicated individuals can make big strides in improving these programs. It just takes doggedness and focus.
A few recommendations for individuals or teams:
Discover what specific climate-, energy- and transportation-related policies are already in place in your city or county. Are existing programs accomplishing their goals? Is environmental justice a central element of these programs? Are they adequately funded? Are some of them working at cross purposes with others? Who are the strongest advocates for green policies in the various governments of your locale, and who are the foes and foot-draggers? Before doing all this legwork, it’s worth learning whether other people or community organizations have already done much of it.
Once you or you team gets a handle on what’s what, it will be time to determine if there’s the political will to tweak or reform or repeal or reshape existing local programs—or initiate new ones—to meet or exceed the current Paris goals or the upgraded ones expected in 2021.
This approach doesn’t merely apply to cities and other local governments. State policies and programs and funding ought also to get citizen scrutiny.
For example, 29 states now have mandated a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). That is, they have set deadlines for reaching a specified percentage of electricity generation via renewables. These 29 are very different from one another, and some need serious upgrades. The most aggressive is California’s, where the RPS goal is 50 percent renewably-generated electricity by 2030. South Carolina, on the other hand, calls for only 2 percent renewables by 2021.
States with low RPS percentages—or that have no RPS mandates at all—may be hard to crack. But they offer an opportunity for activists to make changes based on what’s happening in states that have proven themselves more serious about climate change. That, of course, takes a lot more than merely gathering information or showing up with placards at public meetings.
All this looks as though it would be a lot of work … because it would be. But it’s very, very necessary work for those with the time and energy to spare.
(Originally appeared at Dailykos)