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Published on April 25th, 2014 | by Silvio Marcacci

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US Mayors Leading The Way On Emission Cuts & Climate Resilience

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April 25th, 2014 by  

Mayors often say they’re “where the rubber meets the road” between government policy and actual action, and it looks like that saying’s especially true when it comes to emissions reductions and climate resilience across America.

More than two-thirds of U.S. cities that have pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions are reporting quantifiable reductions as a result of their action in government and the community, reports Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Actions in America’s Cities, a survey of 282 cities released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The survey is yet another reminder that even though federal action is lacking, the growing impacts of climate change and extreme weather are spurring action and successes where they’re felt most – Main Street, U.S.A.

A Growing Movement Toward Emissions Reductions

Quantifiable and coordinated climate action in U.S. cities dates to 2005, when a small group of elected officials within the U.S. Conference of Mayors pledged action to cut emissions, boost clean energy, and improve local climate resiliency.

Over time, this voluntary effort has grown into the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which now counts more than 1,000 signatories. Impressive stuff, considering the U.S. Conference of Mayors represents roughly 1,400 cities with a population of 30,000 or more.

And according to the survey, these signatures are turning into real climate action. The survey, which focused on 282 representative cities, provides data on emissions reduction successes in cities of all sizes across the country:

  • More than half of all surveyed cities (53%) have officially committed to reducing emissions
  • Nearly three-quarters of cities (71%) operating under official emissions reductions targets report “quantifiable greenhouse gas reductions” in city government operations, the community at large, or both.
  • Nearly half of all surveyed cities (48%) have benchmarked greenhouse gas emissions, with 59% of those cities setting inventories for both city government operations and the community at large.
US Cities Emissions Reductions

US Cities Emissions Reductions chart via US Conference of Mayors

“Mayors are again leading on an issue solidly before us as a nation and before us in our communities,” said Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Mayors are doing many things, and mayors are doing great things, but mayors can’t do everything.”

Boosting Clean Energy And Climate Resilience

Beyond just unilaterally cutting emissions, though, mayors are also engaging their communities to help the process. 54% said their first choice of action is creating programs to engage residents, while 45% said engaging the business community is a close second at 45%, and developing climate adaptation plans checks in at 40%

In a promising development for the fast-expanding field of energy benchmarking, 67% of mayors said they want energy use data for their cities to advance clean energy and climate goals, and 57% said surveys and data from other cities would help them achieve emissions reduction goals.

US Cities Clean Energy Strategy

US Cities Clean Energy Strategy graph via US Conference of Mayors

Cities also seem to be moving toward a more efficient and resilient energy system. 82% of mayors said LEDs or efficient lighting were the most promising technology, while 54% favored solar energy and 53% chose low-energy buildings – a trend shown in the fast expansion of LEED-certified government structures.

But while shifting toward clean energy is an important endeavor, the threat of extreme weather is a much more pressing imperative. 76% of cities have developed an emergency response plan to cope with power outages, perhaps spurred by the fact that 41% of cities reported at least one power outage within the past five years due to a severe climate event.

Others Talk, Mayors Walk

All told, the U.S. Conference of Mayors survey may stand out as a playbook for state and federal officials on climate and clean energy action. “While Washington is talking about cutting carbon to protect our planet, mayors and their constituents are taking action across the board,” said Tom Cochran, U.S. Conference of Mayors executive director and CEO. “Others talk about the future; mayors are walking toward our future.”

Strong words, but for once, they’re backed up by strong actions.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.



  • Banned by Bob

    I remember the Mayor of Houston saying once that the City is the single largest consumer of electricity in the area. Must be the same for other large cities. Tons of potential savings through more efficient street lighting and traffic signals.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Some cities use more than 50% of their electricity for street lighting. LA has switched to LED street lighting –

      “The City of Los Angeles, for example, has estimated that it will reduce its annual electric bill by at least $7 million dollars, with a further $2.5 million dollars saved as a result of reduced maintenance needs. According to Eric Woods of the Navigant Research blog, the LEDs that have been installed in Los Angeles use (on average) about 63% less electricity than the high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures that they have replaced, while also lasting much longer, and also being more pleasant to the human eye.
      The second phase of Los Angeles’ LED replacement program will see the retrofit of about 70,000 decorative street lamps located throughout the city.”

      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/09/12/worlds-largest-led-streetlight-retrofit-completed-in-los-angeles/#xjzAQgg0xE7pZ8Xr.99

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