16 Cities That Are Leading the Way in the Climate Change Fight

Long before Congress started to take the threat of climate change
seriously, American mayors were already recognizing the need to
decrease fossil-fuel consumption, promote efficiency, and generally
create more livable places.

rkv30qh.jpgScott Smith of Mesa, AZ, the 1000th U.S. mayor to endorse emissions-reduction targets. (Photo: East Valley Trib)

Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, Arizona, recently became the 1,000th city chief to sign on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement [PDF],
first ratified in 2005 as a way for localities to commit to meet the
Kyoto emissions reduction targets that the Bush administration declined to endorse.

Smith’s move prompted a report in this weekend’s New York Times, which hailed city-level sustainability efforts such as those showcased on Capitol Hill back in July. While the nation has long been more urban than rural — in fact, an estimated two-thirds of Americans now live in
the nation’s 100 biggest cities — the Times cast some doubt on prior
portrayals of cities as proportionally significant energy consumers:

“Cities occupy two percent of the world’s land mass yet
contribute more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions,”
begins the Clinton Initiative’s online explication of its C-40 program,
which unites large cities across the globe in a commitment to reducing
greenhouse gases. …

But other researchers — including David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow
at the International Institute for Environment and Development in
London — have challenged those numbers, claiming that they are at best
exaggerated and in reality unknowable.

Writing in the March
2009 issue of the United Nations Human Settlements Program’s flagship
magazine, Urban World, Mr. Satterthwaite and his colleague David
Dodman, drawing on the most recent figures of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, estimate that cities contribute somewhere
between 30 and 41 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

What was mentioned but not discussed by the Times is the Conference of Mayors’ report [PDF]
on 16 cities that have adopted innovative strategies to cut pollution.
The entire report is worth a read (though New Yorkers, San Franciscans
and Portland-ites may be disappointed to find their hometowns not
listed), not least because most mayors single out land use and
transportation planning as central elements of their policy-making on
environment and energy.


Philly Mayor Tells Senate: Climate Bill Can Help Make Cities Greener

As the Senate opened its second round of climate change hearings today, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter delivered the urban case for climate legislation, outlining an array of infrastructure improvements and green reforms that would be made possible by federal action to reduce carbon emissions. A sample image of Philadelphia’s proposed "green corridors." (Image: Lomo Civic […]

California Legislative Update: Parking Requirements, Cap-and-Trade Funds

This week we’re tracking some of the bills that got left out of last week’s too-long legislative update. These bills relate to transportation funding, climate change, and urban planning. PLANNING Eliminating Parking Minimums: A.B. 744 from Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would require a city or county to eliminate minimum parking requirements under certain circumstances, upon […]

Senate Poised to Move on Climate Bill

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, isn’t yet ready to start debating a long-term transportation bill — but she is reportedly prepared to move on climate change legislation that includes targets for diminishing auto dependence and encouraging transit use. Boxer’s panel will begin debate on its climate bill during […]

Will U.S. DOT Get Serious About Climate Change? Here’s Cause for Optimism.

Last fall, national environmental advocates sat down with officials from U.S. DOT to talk about how federal transportation policy can address climate change. There is wild variation between state transportation departments when it comes to green transportation policy. Some of the more sophisticated agencies, like California’s and Oregon’s, are starting to factor greenhouse gas emissions into their transportation plans. Most […]