Climate-friendly cities pledge solidarity with U.S. mayors ahead of Trump presidency

‘The recent U.S. election makes clear that you — America’s leading cities — are even more essential to accelerating climate action in the United States,’ five mayors wrote.

Part of the Chicago skyline is reflected in the windows of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. (Elesi/Shutterstock)

A coalition of the world’s most progressive cities on climate change have offered public support to their U. S. counterparts as they prepare for the incoming presidential administration of Donald Trump.

Five mayors who have signed up for the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, a network of 20 cities striving for complete carbon neutrality by 2050, issued an open letter of solidarity this week to the U. S. members of the network.

“The recent U. S. election makes clear that you — America’s leading cities — are even more essential to accelerating climate action in the United States,” the letter states. “This is increasingly important as your new national leadership abdicates responsibility for protecting Americans and the world from fossil fuel impacts to our people’s health, our economies, and our environment.”

[See: In Mexico City for climate talks, U. S. mayors get advice on how to deal with Donald Trump]

The letter was sent by the mayors of Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, Sydney and Vancouver. It was addressed to their counterparts in Boston, Boulder, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

The mayors warn of several possible actions that could be taken by the next U. S. president, who takes office in January. A Trump administration could undo environmental regulations that would reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, for instance. It also could increase the production of oil, coal and natural gas, or approve new fossil-fuel pipelines. And it could cut U. S. financial support for international climate change efforts like the Paris Agreement, which came into effect last month.

“His cabinet picks are reflective of this regressive commitment,” the letter said. In the past few weeks, Trump has signaled his intention to name to his cabinet multiple figures that concern  environmentalists. These include the chairman of gas giant ExxonMobil. They also include a known climate-change denier, as well as a governor who pledged as a presidential candidate to abolish the Department of Energy.

Some observers do see possible silver linings from the Trump presidency, whether in a major infrastructure plan or new decentralization that would empower local governments. Trump met briefly yesterday with the leadership of the U. S. Conference of Mayors, where he reportedly pledged to maintain a tax exemption on municipal bonds seen as essential to securing investment in infrastructure financing.

But on climate change, these cities — which have set the world’s most ambitious targets on carbon emissions — say they have not yet seen any redeeming features of a Trump White House.

[See: What effect could President Trump have on U. S. cities’ climate action?]

“The U. S. election makes clear that subnational actors — especially cities — are America’s only hope now in terms of climate action,” said Johanna Partin, director of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. “Climate action cannot take a sabbatical and wait another four years or another election cycle for more aggressive action.”

Bipartisan support

One tool that U. S. mayors will have at their disposal in the Trump era is a new policy strategy from the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Roadmap to Support Local Climate Resilience: Lessons from the Rising Tides Summit” is an eight-point guide to bolstering defense against sea-level rise and storm surge in coastal communities. It came out of a bipartisan summit held last year and focuses on data collection, pre-disaster planning, interagency coordination, public-private partnerships and mainstreaming of resilience in policy design.

[See: Three questions for cities as the Paris Agreement on climate change turns one]

“During a time of exceptional divisiveness at the national level, this analysis is confirmation that bipartisan support exists at the local level to address the impacts of rising seas and more extreme weather,” said WRI U. S. Director Sam Adams, former Mayor of Portland, Oregon. “This roadmap offers a common-sense and fiscally responsible approach to how the federal government can invest in infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change.”

Last month, a “king tide” — an extreme high tide — flooded cities and towns up and down the Florida coastline. Once a rare event, such high events are increasingly common. One in 1,000 storms is likewise picking up in intensity, such as Superstorm Sandy, which left Hoboken, New Jersey underwater for days in 2012.

[See: Four cities announce landmark ban on diesel vehicles]

“This is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike are already seeing and living with the reality of climate change,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “The federal government has a responsibility to execute on common-sense measures to help protect our communities.”

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