U.S. Mayors Promise More Policies To Fight Global Warming, But Will they Work?

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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U.S. mayors continue to make pledges to do more to fight global warming, but experts have become increasingly skeptical of local efforts to tackle a problem scientists and environmentalists say is global.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $200 million to help cities tackle of variety of policies he doesn’t trust the Trump administration to handle, including global warming. Bloomberg announced the funding Monday at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami Beach — a city mayors say is on the “front lines” of global warming.

A top issue for many mayors is the role cities across the country should play in the fight against global warming. Bloomberg’s charity group will hand out grants to cities to help them implement policy ideas to fight climate change.

President Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement on climate change angered many big city mayors. Hundreds of local officials, businesses and universities have signed a pledge to honor the goals of the Paris accord.

U.S. mayors who signed the “We Are Still In” manifesto pledged to “meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, already signed an executive order to honor the Paris accord. The mayors of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Atlanta plan to join hundreds more in submitting their own pledge to the United Nations, stipulating their non-binding goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors will vote Monday on a resolution establishing a 100 percent green energy goal by 2035 and other resolutions to increase reliance on electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Democrats and environmentalists have been increasingly looking to state and local governments for green energy policies they believe are necessary to fight global warming.

The Trump administration wants to boost coal, natural gas and oil production to make the U.S. “energy dominant.” While Trump says he also supports green energy, Democratic politicians are pushing sub-national climate policies.

But the focus on local governments raises questions about just how much impact they can have on future projected global warming.

In 2007, for example, more than 1,000 U.S. mayors signed onto a pledge to meet the emissions reductions cuts required by the Kyoto Protocol — the legally-binding predecessor to the Paris accord. The U.S. never ratified Kyoto.

Washington Policy Center director Todd Myers wrote that “virtually all these cities had failed to live up to the pledge their mayors had made, missing the Kyoto targets badly.”

“The results are instructive,” Myers wrote in National Review in June. Most interestingly, New York City only met Bloomberg’s Kyoto goal after being ravaged by the “great recession,” Myers noted.

“After 2012, however, emissions actually increased,” he wrote. “At the current rate, New York will miss Bloomberg’s 2030 target. Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, made the targets even more unreasonable by promising an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050.”

“After just a few years, the city is already more than 4 percent behind and will need to reduce emissions at more than four times the current rate to have any hope of meeting de Blasio’s promised goal,” Myers wrote.

A former District of Columbia energy official said for that to happen, cities will need to get serious about reducing energy consumption.

“The idea that cities are leading on climate change is applauded over and over and over,” wrote Sam Brooks, who directed the District of Columbia’s energy division. “It’s not actually happening.”

“Retrofit programs for buildings and homes aren’t delivering results,” Brooks wrote. “Power distribution remains rooted in century-old thinking and technology. And those cities that claim to be on track to go ‘100 percent renewable’? Not even close.”

“It turns out that when cities claim reductions in greenhouse gases, they’re usually taking credit for things they didn’t do,” he wrote.

Basically, cities were able to use green energy credits as a way to “offset” emissions without actually having to change behavior, Brooks wrote. Energy trends in cities, it turns out, were more heavily influenced by state or federal decisions.

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