View of Honolulu by Edmund Garman via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Mayors get it. When they met Last weekend at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Hawaii, these local leaders from across the country put discussing ways to advance clean, renewable energy and electric vehicles in their communities at the top of their agenda. The group recognizes that combating environmental problems, including climate change, through avenues like the electrical grid and transportation is a must.
To that end, the group adopted resolutions last year aiming for 100 percent renewable energy, increasing wind power development on and offshore, and asserting the role of mayors in upholding the Paris Agreement.
This year, climate action remained front and center. The mayors voted to adopt resolutions supporting cities’ rights to mitigate and adapt to climate change, a national Green New Deal, and a national price on Carbon emissions.
“Once again these mayors are taking a stand on the tough issues,” U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran said after the resolutions passed. “For decades this Conference has been out front on the biggest debates of the time. Mayors don’t get bogged down in partisanship and politics; they just focus on solutions and get things done.”
In addition, the group also honored officials who are trailblazing on climate. For instance, the conference recognized Mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Lioneld Jordan of Fayetteville, Arkansas for initiatives that have helped their cities transition toward electric vehicles and pollution-free solar energy, respectively.
“Mayors are tackling issues of national importance because our voices are needed more than ever,” said Conference President and Columbia, SC, Mayor Steve Benjamin. “We can’t just sit on the sidelines. We have to be the drivers of the change that our constituents expect and deserve.”
These efforts are reflective of a growing trend in major metro areas nationwide. More than 100 U.S. cities and counties have already committed to repowering themselves with 100 percent renewable energy with recent additions including Tallahassee, Fla., Missoula, Mont., and Chicago. More than 200 mayors representing cities in all fifty states have also signed onto a letter in support of solar power in their communities. And, the results of their advocacy are clear. Of the 57 cities studied in an annual survey of solar energy in the country’s biggest cities, 79 percent more than doubled their total installed solar PV capacity in the last five years.
But this is only the beginning. So many mayors see the problems we face, and I anticipate that U.S. cities will remain at the forefront of the transition to a clean energy future through continued bold leadership. For now, let’s all tip our hats to municipal leaders who are setting the pace for the energy transition we need. But, at the same time, we must continue pressing for others to do the same so that, by next summer’s annual meeting, many more will have joined them in this fight.