Mayors meet in Miami Beach to talk cities and climate change

Will cities vote to make 100 percent renewable energy a top priority in the coming years?

On Saturday, June 24, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will join mayors from some of the country’s most populous cities in Miami Beach to address climate change at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 85th annual meeting. The coalition of cities plans to vote this weekend on a pledge to make 100 percent renewable power a top policy priority over the next decade. More than 250 mayors are expected to join the meeting.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting comes at a time when mayors and cities are in the spotlight for pushing back against the Trump administration’s policies on climate change. This effort spearheaded by local governments is the latest of many to counter Trump’s aggressive anti-climate action agenda. How important is it that cities lead on climate change? This giant human massage on Miami Beach outside the mayor’s conference speaks for itself.

Source: Miami Aerial

When President Trump announced the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement earlier this month, U.S. mayors pushed back — with 305 city leaders pledging to adopt, honor and uphold the agreement’s goals, calling themselves “Climate Mayors”.

The Climate Mayors have also been a leading group partnering with businesses and governors to form the “We Are Still In” coalition, the broadest cross section of the American economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action. The “We Are Still In” statement, released on June 5, has been signed by over 2,000 cities, businesses, and universities representing 124 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the US economy.

Mayors across the country are reacting to Trump’s agenda at a scale never before seen, forming peer-to-peer networks dedicated to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement. Many cities see the Paris Agreement as a blueprint for creating jobs, promoting trade, spurring innovation, and preserving American competitiveness in a 21st century economy.

A recent analysis by the Sierra Club (based on data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Energy Information Administration) shows that mayors could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 42 percent by 2035. Cities are increasingly emerging as role models for governance on climate and countless other issues, and taking up responsibility to be global ambassadors for continued action on climate change in the US.

At the Miami conference this weekend, mayors will discuss the renewed climate activism in their cities, the responsibility for cities to drive climate action over the next four years, and how they’re continuing to pursue their most ambitious climate plans without help from the federal government. They will also discuss their role delivering measurable and meaningful reductions in emissions.

Many cities see the Paris Agreement as a blueprint for creating jobs, promoting trade, spurring innovation, and preserving American competitiveness in a 21st century economy.

While cities are joining up to discuss how to reduce emissions, conversations about how to address other parts of the US commitments under Paris are not as advanced. One big concern: finance for poor countries. Under the agreement, wealthy countries who have benefitted economically from historical emissions pledged to funnel money to developing countries through a mechanism called the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In 2015 the US pledged to give $3 billion to start. Obama only sent $1 billion before he left office, and Trump has promised not to give any more money.

Some cities are starting to address this gap however. Seattle recently passed a resolution to “uphold its portion of the United States’ former commitment to the Paris climate accord,” in addition to “supporting the Green Climate Fund [GCF].”

One thing is clear: the mayors all over the nation want the rest of the world know that, regardless of what’s happening in Washington, leaders in the US still believe in the promise of the Paris Agreement and are taking steps to help reach its goals.

Garrett Blad writes for I Heart Climate Scientists and other publications on climate change, policy and social change. You can follow him @gblad.

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