Indicator: Mayors Vote to Support Climate Protection

Mayors from across the country and the political spectrum voted unanimously in June to support a climate protection agreement, forming the nation's largest coalition of elected leaders working to halt global warming. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels led the drive for the agreement, which challenged the U.S. Conference of Mayors to join 141 countries in adopting the Kyoto Protocol.

The Bush administration continues to reject the Kyoto Protocol, but 173 mayors in 37 states, from Austin, Texas to Bellevue, Nebraska, have signed the mayors' agreement, which calls for a 7 percent reduction in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

“Mayors across America are making it clear; we're not going to wait for the federal government to do something to prevent the production of greenhouse gases,” said Nickels in a statement marking the agreement's signing.

“We can't stop global warming without emissions reductions in cities,” and that means energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart growth, and public transportation, Nickels said. Cities account for three-quarters of the world's energy consumption.

The International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), a nonprofit that supports local governments to fight global warming, helped 156 U.S. cities reduce greenhouse gas emission by 23 million tons in 2004 through their Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

Although the mayors' agreement is non-binding, ICLEI will be helping Nickles monitor cities' progress and acting as a support network for the mayors.

Building on the momentum created by the conference, ICLEI, in concert with actor Robert Redford and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, hosted the Sundance Summit in July to provide additional tools to U.S. mayors to mitigate global warming.
U.S. cities aren't the only ones taking action to reduce pollution. Mayors from 50 cities around the world signed the Urban Environmental Accords in San Francisco in June.
These commit cities to 21 actions for sustainable urban living and address seven environmental concerns for the world's largest cities: water, energy, waste, urban design, transportation, urban nature, and environmental health.

As part of the global effort to address global warming, New Zealand has become the first country to introduce a tax on emission of carbon that will make oil and coal more costly, and hydro, solar, and wind relatively cheaper sources of energy. In a different twist, Japan is asking businessmen to take off their traditional suits and ties and don “Cool Biz” apparel this summer to allow office air conditioners to be set at a mandatory 82.4 degrees to save energy.

—Megan Tady

Megan Tady is a free-lance writer and a former YES! intern.

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