The mayors are stepping up. In the face of the United States’ rapidly changing federal environmental policies and President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, mayors from across the country have decided to take action.
At a meeting of the US Conference of Mayors held late last month, a resolution was approved that set a goal of powering cities with 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2035. According to an analysis from the Sierra Club, if this goal is actually achieved, it would reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector by more than that of the five worst carbon polluting U.S. states combined. And if these goals are achieved earlier, they would meet anywhere from 87 percent to 110 percent of the remaining emission reductions the US has to meet in order to fulfill its promises laid out in the Paris Agreement.
The idea behind the mayors’ decisions is that if they can work collectively, then perhaps they can make up for the fact that the US has decided to leave the Paris Agreement (and roll back many of its national emission reduction policies and programs). Austin Mayor Steve Adler has echoed this sentiment, attending the US Conference of Mayors, and signing on to the 100 percent renewable resolution.
Adler also recently signed on to a open letter from mayors around the world, calling for continued international action on climate change. The letter is addressed to the leaders of the G20 countries (a group of 20 of the world’s major economies, including China, the European Union, Russia, India, Brazil, and the US).
In the letter, the mayors call on the other 19 countries to use the G20 Summit (which was held last weekend) to “safeguard the future of our planet” and push for action on climate change. In return, the mayors said that they will stand with them, redoubling their efforts and commitments at the local level.
“You have the privilege of leadership at a unique moment in history to help realize the potential of the Paris Agreement,” wrote the mayors. “The cities of the world and their citizens have a shared vision for a just and sustainable future – one that will make our communities cleaner, healthier, happier and more prosperous. Together with business leaders we have already decided on a climate-safe future of opportunity, optimism and innovation — there is no alternative.”
Now the question is – will any of these pledges actually be met? Will all of the talk translate into any sort of action?
Austin already has some pretty big renewable energy goals (55 percent renewables by 2025), but the next round of decisions for the city will come later this summer when Austin City Council approves an update to the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan. The plan basically serves as a roadmap, determining where Austin will get its energy for the next several years. Will it come from solar, wind, coal, natural gas? That’s what the plan helps to decide.
A public hearing on the generation plan update has been scheduled for August 10th at Austin City Hall.