The list of city mayors across the country that have joined a pact to achieve the benchmarks set forth in the Paris agreement seems to grow by the day.
The Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, or Climate Mayors, has swelled to well over 200 cities since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord.
The organization’s website lists St. Louis and Kansas City as participants, but Columbia mayor Brian Treece says his city is also a partner, along with a small group of St. Louis suburbs.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s a special United Nations envoy for cities and climate change, said “The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society” in a letter to the U.N. Secretary General.
Treece, who’s looked over the Paris accord, agrees. “I read the major tenets of the agreement before signing on with Climate Mayors, and there were activities that the city of Columbia were already doing” said Treece. “A lot of it is simply measuring our output in order to make meaningful changes that protect the environment and improve our economy.”
Climate Mayors was formed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Its website says the organization “commits U.S. mayors to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policymaking”.
Treece thinks some form of unified action is needed after President Trump removed the country from the Paris accord. “I think it’s appropriate and responsible that mayors that can take an active effort at the local level, join together and begin to honor some of the goals of that accord.”
The Paris agreement itself, which places voluntary benchmarks for greenhouse gas limits from 195 countries, wasn’t designed for participation from parties other than national governments. Under former President Obama, the U. S. had pledged a 26 percent to 28 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2025.
Mayor Treece notes Columbia reached and set its own benchmarks on the local level. “We were the first city in the state of Missouri to have a renewable energy mandate. We now acquire 15 percent of our energy from renewable sources, like solar and wind. That number is supposed to increase to 25 percent by 2023.”
Columbia is a “full service” city, which means it owns and operate most of its municipal services. As such, it runs its own power plant. That operation once supplied energy by burning coal, a process which has since been replaced by the use of bio-mass, and in the past several years, the addition of wind power.
Treece says the city has a new contract with a wind supplier for the cost of two-cents per kilowatt, which will help bring down power costs.
“Our voided costs. Our whole sale cost of producing our own energy, whether we use coal or bio-mass is three-cents, and we sell it for seven-cents a kilowatt to the consumer” Treece said. “So this really is about economic competitiveness as much as it is about protecting the environment.”
Most of the more than 200 Climate Mayors are from solidly Democratic leaning cities, which is consistent with St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia in Missouri. Treece wouldn’t speculate as to whether liberal cities are more inclined to embrace environmental priorities.
He did say his city has been enthusiastic about the cause. He mentioned that Columbia Mall had adopted practices in line with the Paris accord, and reduced its power costs by 25%.
“They’ve saved enough electricity to power 181 homes here in Columbia. To me, those are dramatic steps that can be taken to really make that type of retail business more competitive.”
Treece said he hadn’t, so far, had any contact with other city heads who were members of Climate Mayors. That could change, though. The organization’s website says it will “initiate a mayor-to-mayor, city-to-city outreach effort to bring mayors together over the coming year to develop a shared framework for local leadership and action”.