Mayors Miss the Mark on Climate

On June 24, the assembled mayors at the 85th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) in Miami passed a series of resolutions related to climate change and green energy, including resolutions urging President Donald Trump’s administration to reverse its decision to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement and to support the Obama administration’s stalled Clean Power Plan. USCM members also called for a quick electrification of the U.S. transportation sector and increased government intervention to prop up the wind-energy industry.

The mainstream media’s stories about the mayors’ actions promote the narrative the mayors defied Trump and will meet the Paris climate agreement goals regardless of the federal government’s position on climate change, but they are uniformly light on facts and context. For instance, none of the stories, nor USCM’s website, reports what the final vote was on each of the resolutions passed. Was it an overwhelming majority who favored the resolutions, or was it a close vote?

Some measure of the number of mayors who are truly committed to Paris and the green agenda might be found in a poll taken before the conference. USCM said the survey “found overwhelming interest by cities to accelerate climate efforts,” with 69 percent of responding cities generating or purchasing renewable electricity to power city buildings or operations; 63 percent already buying hybrid, electric, natural gas, and/or biodiesel for their municipal fleets; and 71 percent implementing energy-efficiency policies for new municipal buildings.

However, just 66 of the 1,408 cities who are members of the USCM — less than five percent — responded to the survey. Since the mayors most active in promoting green programs would be the likeliest to respond to this survey, it seems very few of the total number of USCM members wanted to stand up and have their voices counted in the climate fight. In fact, just over 200 cities have formally committed to pursuing the emissions reductions demanded in the Paris climate agreement.

It’s clear USCM’s claims have not been backed up by the actions taken by the vast majority of its member cities.

Baltimore and Chicago, among many other cities, have growing crime and murder rates. In many places, the relationship and trust between citizens and their police forces are at historic lows, with beat cops increasingly under fire (literally). Additionally, cities around the country are facing numerous crises; their streets are riddled with potholes, bridges are crumbling, public transit systems are breaking down, sewage services are out of date, school systems are failing, they lack the funding to open municipal pools during the summer, libraries are closing, cities are cancelling summer reading programs for kids, and public employees’ retirement funds are woefully underfunded.

Many of the guys and gals who have the temerity to lecture the president of the United States on climate matters have run their cities into the ground and are now begging the federal government for help to avoid municipal bankruptcy, for increased school funding, and to fix local roads and transit systems.

Despite radical environmentalists’ claims, mayors, city councils, and cities can do relatively little to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions low enough to hit the Paris targets. States, not cities, regulate the power supply within their borders. So, while cities can put some solar panels on rooftops of city buildings; purchase wind and solar energy through the grid, or at least buy renewable-energy credits that purport to show someone somewhere is building and purchasing wind or solar power (though not the city itself); plant trees; and buy natural gas or electric vehicles to reduce emissions, none of these policies will have a substantial impact on emissions. Most cities don’t even have the authority to impose carbon or energy taxes.

However, cities that do pursue these policies will most assuredly increase costs for taxpayers, businesses, and consumers — and all for very little, if any, benefit. The costs associated with using wind and solar electricity and electric vehicles are simply much higher than the expenses related to more-reliable fossil-fuel power plants and vehicles. States and European countries that have gone the furthest to cut carbon-dioxide emissions pay two to three times more for energy than states and countries that rely primarily on fossil fuels for energy.

Rather than wasting time and resources and raising energy costs on citizens and businesses — proven killers of economic growth — to pay for feel-good programs that will ultimately have no measurable impact on climate, mayors should focus on solving the local issues they were elected to confront and take steps to make their cities more attractive to businesses.

Mayors were elected to solve local problems, and say whatever you want about global warming, it is definitely not a local problem.

Sign Up to receive Our Latest Updates! Register