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Amy Traub

Climate Deniers Take Congress, but Mayors May Save the World

The prospects for national climate change legislation look grim indeed. According to a tally maintained by ThinkProgress, 76 percent of Republicans who will be in the U.S. Senate next year and 52 percent of those in the House have publicly expressed doubts about the scientific consensus on global warming. This climate change denial has been enforced at the ballot box, reports the New York Times, noting that for acknowledging the preponderance of scientific evidence that human beings are contributing to a warming planet, Rep. Bob Inglis was not only voted out of office, but denounced as having “gone to Satan's side on climate change.”

The good news? We’ve still got the cities. And not just the American ones.

On November 21st, 135 mayors, representing cities from Istanbul to Johannesburg, Barcelona, and Jakarta signed on to The Mexico City Pact, an agreement designed to encourage municipal action and create a global registry holding cities accountable for their efforts against climate change. American signatories included Los Angeles, Des Moines, and San Francisco as well as smaller municipalities. (Note to Mayor Bloomberg: it’s not too late to sign on)

While far from a substitute for national and internationally binding action, city commitments can both make a concrete difference reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their own right and spur national governments to take action, as the World Mayors’ Summit on Climate, held in advance of the Cancun climate talks, hopes to do.

“Cities play a strategic role in the fight against climate change,” the Mexico City Pact notes “because they are centers of economic, political and cultural innovation, host to half of the world population, and manage vast public resources, infrastructure, investments and expertise.”

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Erbrard, who hosted the World Mayor’s Summit on Climate, elaborates:

Cities have great capacities to address climate change, even in the absence of a binding global treaty among nations. We manage public buildings and lands. We operate water and electric utilities and solid waste facilities. We establish building codes and zoning regulations. We run public transportation systems. If we can make all of these services more energy efficient or cleaner, we can have a significant impact on reducing harmful emissions.

With more than half the world's population today living in cities for the first time in human history, mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet's fight against a changing climate. At the World Mayors Summit on Climate, we took action. Now we want national governments to summon the political will to do the same.

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Posted at 8:56 AM, Nov 23, 2010 in Energy & Environment
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