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Mayors Ready to Act on Paris Climate Accord Without Federal Government

A rooftop is covered with solar panels at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Feb. 14, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

WASHINGTON – New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D), vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, described the group’s “collective opinion” on withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord as a “shortsighted political decision” that is going to “negatively impact” U.S. economic growth.

Landrieu said that President Trump’s “America First” outlook, which fueled his decision to withdraw from the climate agreement, should not mean “America Only.”

“Although we are spending a lot of time talking about ‘America First,’ while many of us may agree with that, it cannot be ‘America Only’ – the feeling about this is the decision to withdraw from the agreement pits environmental protection against economic growth, but we think this is a false choice,” Landrieu told reporters on a conference call last Friday.

“We think that, in fact, withdrawing from the climate agreement is not going to safeguard American industry. It’s going to actually cost us jobs,” he added.

Landrieu said New Orleans is “suffering” from coastal erosion, sea level rise and climate change, which “essentially will actually have the land we live on disappear and, as a consequence, the jobs and the communities that all of our citizens live on.”

“The rest of the world has spoken. Unfortunately, at least from the federal side, the federal government has decided to go ‘America Only,’ but the mayors of America are here to say in partnership with the private sector and communities across the country, it doesn’t mean that America as a nation will follow the lead of President Trump,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we will do it. We have to do it on our own to make sure we protect jobs, protect our national security and, of course, protect the environment, all of which fold hand-in-hand with each other.”

Landrieu said this is “not the first time” mayors have had to act on an issue without the federal government.

“It would be better in concert with them, but if they are not coming mayors across America sent a message loud and clear: collectively, we are ready to take the lead on this issue and other issues that effect the welfare of the country,” he said.

Democratic Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, chairman of the USCM Environment Committee, said the mayors are ready to “fill the void” left by Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, calling the decision an “abdication of American leadership” on the world stage. Stanton said he views climate change as a local issue and that meeting the “obligations” of the accord is “good” for job creation.

“We are going to symbolically sign on to the Paris Accord on behalf of Americans all across the United States and subsequently take the actions necessary to ensure that America meets its obligations under the Paris Accord. It’s important to us,” he said. “We’re local leaders and this is important to us locally. In Arizona, we are fighting extreme heat. We are fighting drought as a result of climate change, forest fires in northern Arizona, the increase in forest fires are a direct result of climate change, so sometimes it might be pitted as a global issue but it’s a local issue.”

Stanton said the world is “disappointed” in America after the White House’s decision to exit the accord.

“This is a local issue that mayors have to come together on and we are not going to allow an abdication of American leadership on this issue. So the eyes of the world are upon us, and they’re disappointed by what happened at the White House,” he said. “And we want to make sure they are heartened by the actions of leaders that get things done day-to-day in our own communities and that is America’s mayors – and it’s so heartening that we are coming together in a bipartisan way.”

Stanton said Phoenix is dedicated to meeting the “zero-waste, carbon-neutral” goal by the year 2050.

“We have entrepreneurs working side by side with city employees at our transfer stations figuring out ways we can eliminate things going into our public waste system, removing them from our waste system,” he said.

Burnsville Republican Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said local businesses do not need Washington in order to act on the Paris Accord’s obligations.

“The mayors won’t quit because, for us, we live close to our people and we care about the environment and we care about energy efficiency and we want to make sure that people know mayors won’t quit,” said Kautz, former president of the USCM. “Our businesses said we don’t need Washington to tell us; we’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Kautz vowed to “exceed” the Paris agreement’s goals “because we care, and we will make sure we work with our businesses and the people so it’s going to be OK – because mayors are going to do it.”

“We don’t need Washington to tell us what to do,” she added. “We will do what is right.”