Climate mayors resist Trump with commitment to 100% renewables
Remember that decades-old phrase “think globally, act locally”? The message behind it made a big splash Monday. Activists are needed to turn the message into reality.
In a unanimous vote Monday, the typically staid U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution backing municipalities’ efforts to obtain 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2035. If the words in that resolution are backed up with local planning and policy actions, as well as pressure from city officials on officials at other levels of government, the vote would go far to accomplish the much-needed acceleration of the transformation of our energy system.
The resolution bolsters the efforts of the nation’s Climate Mayors. Since Pr*sident Donald Trump announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, those mayors—now totaling 338—have aligned themselves with the accord. That represents more than 65 million Americans in 44 states, including the nation’s 10 largest cities.
Dominique Mosbergen reports on the conference, which represents both Democratic and Republican mayors :
“If the federal government doesn’t act, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a national policy; the federal government doesn’t occupy the only place on this,” conference president and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told The New York Times on Monday. “Mayors have to respond to circumstances. We have to keep moving no matter what.”
Many local leaders have for years been pushing for tougher action on climate and energy. With Trump now squatting in the White House, their efforts are more important than ever.
- Urge Congress and the Trump administration to support the Paris Agreement and the Obama administration’s stalled Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector and which Trump has been working to repeal.
- Call for a quick electrification of the nation’s transportation sector.
- Ask Trump and Congress to “develop a comprehensive risk management program to address future flood risks from sea level rise.”
- Support greater investment from all levels of government in wind energy.
- Encourage Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, a defunct federal program that sent money to local governments.
Climate Hawks know there are missing items on this list. For instance, a commitment to spreading community solar installations, which—done right—can provide affordable renewable electricity to low-income people as well as apartment dwellers. This ought to be a high priority for next year’s conference and in every city whose mayor has signed onto the 100 percent renewables resolution. But although the resolutions are incomplete, they are definitely headed in the right direction, and if fulfilled, they will have a significant positive impact. Nicholas Kusnetz at InsideClimate News writes:
According to an analysis by the Sierra Club, which has been working with a group of mayors on the issue, if all the conference’s cities were to adopt 100 percent renewable energy, they could cut carbon dioxide emission by 619 million metric tons, equivalent to the emissions of about 180 coal plants. So far, mayors of 120 cities have signed the Sierra Club’s pledge supporting a transition to using only renewable power.
One excellent consequence of the 100 percent resolution is that it provides leverage for activists in 1,400 U.S. cities to push local governments to live up to the vote.
As I suggested three weeks ago, a good first step for local activists is phoning up their mayors and giving them a couple of huzzahs for signing on to the 100 percent pledge. After that:
Activists should focus on encouraging the mayors to remain on that path, and see which ones are all talk and no walk. […]
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. […]
That, and the rest of what I proposed will be a lot of work. But this kind of resistance is one that thrives on persistence and insistence. It affects everyone’s home turf. No need to go to Washington, D.C., or New York City for a one-day protest, although such actions have worth of their own. Local pressure can be exerted repeatedly to ensure that a mayor and other members of a local government don’t procrastinate or fall prey to the forces that wish to delay or demolish the crucial effort to get us off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
Organizing around climate locally also offers us another opportunity to organize for elections, to build a deep bench of candidates dedicated not just to progressive energy and climate policy but to progressive policies on a whole range of other issues. Win, win.