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1,000th Mayor Signs U.S. Conference Of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement

October 12, 2009

1,000 mayors, representing more than 86 million Americans, have now signed The U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement – a landmark pledge for mayors all across the country to take bold action to significantly reduce carbon emissions in cities.

Mesa (AZ) Mayor Scott Smith was the 1,000th mayor to sign the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which is in line with Kyoto Protocol standards and calls for reductions in carbon emissions by seven percent below 1990 levels.

Conference President Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels made the announcement at a ceremony during the U.S. Conference of Mayors Leadership Meeting at the Seattle Westin Hotel on October 2.

“Global warming is real and demands our immediate response. It is in our national interest to act now and mayors understand that a successful plan in this country for reducing our energy consumption begins in cities and local communities. We are leading by example in the fight against global warming and representing America to the world,” Nickels said in making the announcement.

“I welcome the opportunity to join with 1,000 of my peers in this truly bipartisan effort to improve not only the environment, but also our communities and our nation. We may not all agree on specific action points, but we are united in a common goal of responsible environmental stewardship,” said Smith after he signed the agreement.

Smith concluded, “I am signing up because this is too important of an issue for us to stand on the sideline. … Mayors are a unique bunch. We like to get things done; we like to solve things. And when you have a thousand mayors committed to something – watch out.”

Nickels initially introduced the Agreement to the Conference in February of 2005 with 141 original mayoral signers symbolizing the 141 countries signed onto Kyoto. Shortly before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin signed the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement recognizing that New Orleans was particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. In 2007, Tulsa (OK) Mayor Kathy Taylor signed on as the 500th mayor and created an office of sustainability in her city. Now, 1,000 mayors representing 86 million Americans in all 50 states are promising to make their cities more energy efficient by 2012.

Nickels, who will head a delegation of U.S. mayors to support President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton in Copenhagen in December, has led the “green” movement among mayors in this country with summits on alternative vehicles in Chicago in 2006, green buildings in Atlanta in 2006 and climate change in his hometown of Seattle in 2007.

The mayors’ meeting in Seattle came on the heels of federal climate legislation by Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) and Senator John Kerry (MA). Just two days before, Boxer and Kerry introduced The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, a bill that includes an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant that was conceived by the Conference of Mayors and is currently funded in the Stimulus Plan. The Senate bill extends the Block Grants beyond the Stimulus and makes funding available to cities to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, create green jobs and promote greater energy conservation.

Of the Senate Energy Bill, Conference Vice President Burnsville (MN) Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said, “Mayors are results-oriented. If we are going to get serious about energy conservation as a country, action has to start at the local level. Mayor Nickels has left us this legacy, but our work doesn’t stop here. We look forward to working with Congress in a bi-partisan way to continue what we started.”

Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran applauded the legislation as a means of job creation in cities where the unemployment rate is steadily rising. “Mayors want Washington to know that MainStreet America is still hurting. Joblessness has surpassed ten percent in many cities and we know that many people are struggling. So mayors are excited that this bill will create new green jobs at a time when they are desperately needed. Green jobs and a new green economy are the future of our economic competitiveness.”

After thanking Boxer for her Clean Energy Bill and its inclusion of Mayors’ Block Grant provision, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed his support for the effort by saying, “I signed the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement in 2005 shortly after I took office and I took the commitment very seriously. I am proud that Los Angeles met the targets of the Agreement in 2008 – four years ahead of time. And I am sure other mayors have met the targets of the Agreement or are close to doing so. … Mayors took the mantle of leadership in this country when our federal government failed to act.”

Nickels praised the organization of mayors for its successful efforts on the Climate Bill. “Mayors traveled to Washington twice this summer to push for a partnership with the federal government on climate protection, and the Senate has acted in direct response to our calls for support. The Conference has worked long and hard to establish the Block Grant as a cornerstone of our national climate protection strategy, and this climate legislation, including this provision, is a critical component of our effort to empower local officials to make our communities greener, healthier and more sustainable. We urge the Senate to act swiftly to address this global crisis.”

Past President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Trenton (NJ) Mayor Douglas H. Palmer who represented the mayors on the Hill when the Bill was introduced said, “In these hard economic times, we know that many people are without jobs and are struggling. This bill will help jump'start green industries that will create new green jobs – which is exactly what American families need.”

New Report Profiles Local Climate Actions

During the mayors’ meeting, the Conference also released a city-profile report titled, The Power of 86 Million Americans: 1,000 Mayors Committed to Climate Action, that highlights specific actions mayors are taking around the country to meet the goals of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The report includes cities of all sizes in all regions of the country and shows that the mayors’ climate protection efforts range from changing city fleets to alternative fuel vehicles, to retrofitting city-owned buildings with energy efficient technology, to collecting methane gas from landfills for electricity use.

“This is not a symbolic effort. Mayors are serious about protecting our climate and these city profiles show that if anyone knows how to innovate, it is our nation’s mayors. We are the leaders that make America work, and even in the midst of an economic downturn, mayors are identifying ways to fight global warming which also contributes to local budget savings over the long-term,” said Nickels.

Charleston (SC) Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr. summed up the collective effort by saying, “Shortly after Mayor Nickels began this journey, mayors around the country quickly came to the conclusion that this climate protection agreement was more than a goal we were pledging to reach – it was a movement within organization and in our cities. Thanks to Mayor Nickels, the movement is now tangible in 1,000 different cities in 1,000 different ways. Also thanks to Mayor Nickels, we have created something that has touched almost every city in America in and has shaped each city in a positive way.”