AMERICA’s MAYORS ARE THE RENEWABLE ENERGY CHAMPIONS AMERICA NEEDS RIGHT NOW

Opinion
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hilbert Morales

EL OBSERVADOR

Source: Matt Hickman, Louisiana Business Journal, Volume 4, Edition 9, July 2017

It makes sense then that Miami Beach served as host city for the 85th Annual Meeting of United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). While topics like education, community development and immigration were all discussed, the headlining news was the adoption of several resolutions centered on resiliency and countering the impacts of climate change — sea level rise included. Most notably, one specific resolution saw the mayors of America’s largest cities pledge to use 100 percent renewable energy, by 2035.

The USCM’s push toward 100 percent clean energy along with other climate change-related adopted resolutions isn’t surprising. Over the past several weeks, numerous cities and several states including New York, California, Washington, Connecticut and Colorado have vowed to march forward into a cleaner, healthier and more efficient future as the federal government, under the fossil fuel-friendly Trump administration, assumes a regressive stance. Among other things, the Trump administration aims to lift emissions regulations on power producers, open up protected lands for drilling, make “nuclear cool again” and also somehow revive the ebbing coal mining industry. Meanwhile, America’s mayors aren’t having any of it. Led by current conference president and mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, the bipartisan USCM is open to the mayors of American cities with populations of 30,000 or more. Based on this criterion, there are 1,408 qualifying cities across the country. Joining Landrieu in Miami Beach were the mayors of over 250 of these cities, representing burgs ranging from Beverly Hills to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The mayors of 10 Puerto Rican cities also registered while the Sunshine State, naturally, enjoyed a large contingent in addition to Tomas Regalado of Miami and Philip Levine of Miami Beach. Per the BBC, Floridians are more at risk to the ill effects of climate change than the residents of any other state according to recent studies. United in opposition to the Trump administration’s exit from the Paris climate agreement, these city leaders have pledged to do everything and anything within their power to stop climate change in its tracks. And unlike the White House’s intentions to place renewables in the backseat on the road to “energy dominance,” mayors, in the spirit of the Paris agreement, are insisting that WIND, SOLAR AND GEOTHERMAL ENERGY ride up front. (Although recently championed by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry during the White House’s so- called “Energy Week,” NUCLEAR POWER IS EXCLUDED from the USCM’s definition of “renewable energy” along with waste incineration, large-scale hydroelectric dam projects and everything and anything fossil fuel-related.)

And then there’s wind power. Not so long ago, Trump, as a real estate developer, waged war against the Scottish government over an offshore wind farm that he believed marred views from his newly opened luxury golf course development. Wind turbines, it would seem, are still a foe of Trump, now CIC. In a recent speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (Trump) stated: “I don’t want to just hope the wind blows to light up your homes and your factories … as the birds fall to the ground.” These comments elicited widespread groans across Iowa, a state where roughly a third of homes and businesses are powered by wind energy and where the very industry that Trump dismissed as being unreliable has been heralded as a “bipartisan success story,” according to the Associated Press. Ron Corbett, Cedar Rapid’s mayor, was not in attendance at the annual meeting of the USCM. However, the mayors of Des Moines, Dubuque and Waterloo were. Mayors with Paris on their minds; Their commitment to pursue 100 percent renewable energy over the next two decades as well as other climate-related resolutions adopted by the United States Conference of Mayors can be viewed as a sort of unofficial, city centric rejoining of the Paris climate agreement. (Although the symbolic damage has been done, the U.S. will re- main part of the accord until November 2020, which is the earliest withdrawal date.) While cities cannot formally join the agreement although they can certainly pledge to move forward in tandem…according to one resolution, “commit to doing their part on climate action via aggressive policies and programs that reduce our environmental footprint while promoting a 21st century economy.” Separate from the USCM resolutions, 338 American mayors (and counting) representing 65 million Americans have vowed to honor and adhere to the Paris Accord in the aftermath of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the historic agreement. Aside from the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, only war-torn Syria and Nicaragua…are sitting out. Banded together as the Climate Mayors, the battle cry of this impressive alliance that includes the mayors of America’s most populous and influential towns — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and beyond is simple: “The world can’t wait — and neither can we.” What’s more, Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor has co-chaired a coalition called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy that includes leaders from over 7,400 global cities recently joined forces in an effort to assist American cities in honoring the commitments made by President Barack Obama in 2015. “Right now you have a level of collaboration and focus and sharing of best practices that I haven’t seen (before). 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,” Atlanta Mayor Kassim Reed, who was also one of four Georgia mayors in attendance at the USCM annual meeting, explained. “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.” And Reed is right. Cities are now poised to lead the way. Although difficult to call it a blessing in disguise, the Trump administration’s choice of inaction over ascendancy in the climate change and renewable energy fields has served as a catalyst — a somewhat impolite wake-up call — for cities, particularly Democrat-led cities in states with Republican governors, to start ramping up their efforts in a big way. ‘It’s up to us …’ As the United States Conference of Mayors notes, 36-some cities are already leading the way — some of them for some time now — by adopting 100 percent clean energy goals. Six other cities including Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; and Aspen, Colorado, haven’t just established 100 percent clean energy targets … they’ve already hit them. Columbia, South Carolina, is one city striving to meet a 100 percent renewable energy goal. The city’s mayor, Stephen Benjamin, is vice-president of the USCM as well as one of the co-chairs of Sierra Club-backed Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative alongside Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and host city mayor, Philip Levine of Miami Beach.”

Today, when it comes to dealing with Global Climate Change issues which involve Renewable Energy, it is the Mayors who are dealing well with this important matter; NOT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.

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