US cities com­mit to bypassing Trump

May­ors join city lead­ers from around the world to hon­our Paris ac­cord

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Daniel Bof­fey Brus­sels

May­ors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris ac­cord will spur greater lo­cal ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change.

At the first meet­ing of a “global covenant of may­ors”, city lead­ers from across the US, Europe and else­where pledged to work to­gether to keep to the com­mit­ments made by Barack Obama two years ago. Cities will de­vise a stan­dard mea­sure­ment of emis­sion re­duc­tions to help them mon­i­tor their progress. They will also share ideas for de­liv­er­ing car­bon-free trans­port and hous­ing.

Kasim Reed, the mayor of At­lanta, told re­porters he had trav­elled to Europe to “send a sig­nal” that US states and cities would ex­e­cute the poli­cies Obama com­mit­ted to, whether the cur­rent White House oc­cu­pants agreed or not. “Right now you have a level of col­lab­o­ra­tion and fo­cus and shar­ing of best prac­tices that I haven’t seen. I came from Brus­sels from a meet­ing of the US con­fer­ence of may­ors ... and more than 300 may­ors signed a letter re­flect­ing our will to de­liver the Paris ac­cord com­mit­ments.”

He added: “My firm be­lief is that Pres­i­dent Trump’s dis­ap­point­ing de­ci­sion to with­draw from the agree­ment will ac­tu­ally have the op­po­site ef­fect in terms of ex­e­cu­tion.”

The Euro­pean com­mis­sioner Maroš Še­fčovič, who along with the UN’s spe­cial en­voy for cities and cli­mate change, Michael Bloomberg, co-chairs the board of the new or­gan­i­sa­tion, con­ceded that, as yet, it lacked any mem­bers from China, al­though he said he was con­fi­dent that this would change.

Reed, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion has promised that the city of At­lanta will use 100% re­new­able en­ergy by 2035, said 75% of the US pop­u­la­tion and GDP lay in ur­ban ar­eas, where lo­cal lead­ers were com­mit­ted to fight­ing cli­mate change.

“We have the abil­ity to still achieve be­tween 35% and 45% CO2 emis­sion re­duc­tions with­out the in­volve­ment of the na­tional gov­ern­ment and it is why I chose to be here at this time to send a sig­nal to 7,400 cities around the world that now should be a time of op­ti­mism, pas­sion and ac­tion,” he said.

The mayor of Van­cou­ver, Gre­gor Robert­son, said may­ors needed to be proac­tive and work to­gether on ideas or face huge ex­tra costs in re­build­ing their in­fras­truc­ture to deal with the chang­ing cli­mate.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion bet­ter watch out for US cities,” he said. “They are on the rise, and I think will pre­vail in the end, turn­ing the tide, and mak­ing sure the US is a cli­mate leader rather than what is hap­pen­ing cur­rently.”

Še­fčovič warned Wash­ing­ton that Europe was not will­ing to rene­go­ti­ate the terms of the Paris agree­ment, and would by­pass the White House if nec­es­sary.

“I have to say that now we have to be very prag­matic,” he said. “We work very closely with the states like Cal­i­for­nia, like Wash­ing­ton, like New York and many oth­ers, and have a strong al­liance … We are not go­ing to rene­go­ti­ate the Paris agree­ment. Now is not the time to ne­go­ti­ate, it is time to im­ple­ment.”

The first meet­ing of the group of may­ors came af­ter Bloomberg an­nounced an in­vest­ment of $200m over the next three years in US cities able to il­lus­trate a com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing emis­sions. Ev­ery Amer­i­can city with at least 30,000 res­i­dents is be­ing asked to com­pete for cash that can be used to test ideas and fund train­ing ses­sions for mu­nic­i­pal staff.

Ad­dress­ing the Euro­pean par­lia­ment in Brus­sels last Tues­day, Bloomberg said: “It’s im­por­tant for you, and the world, to un­der­stand that the fate of Amer­ica’s Paris pledge does not lie with Congress or the White House.

“Few peo­ple re­alise it, but the US is al­ready half­way to our goal of a 26% re­duc­tion in emis­sions by 2025 – and Wash­ing­ton has had al­most noth­ing to do with that progress.

“Cities, states, busi­nesses and ci­ti­zens, to­gether with the mar­ket, were re­spon­si­ble for it. None of those groups are slow­ing down now – and my foun­da­tion is work­ing to help each group ac­cel­er­ate its progress.”

UN spe­cial en­voy Michael Bloomberg has an­nounced a $200m in­vest­ment to help US cities

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