The mayors of more than 700 American cities have signed a pledge to reduce the carbon emissions of their cities. Following up on that pledge is turning out to be a bit difficult.
"To help fund the mayors' ambitious plans, Congress has included block grants in energy legislation now under consideration -- up to $2 billion a year in a House bill -- to jump-start 'green jobs' initiatives, training low-income workers to retrofit buildings and install climate-friendly energy systems."
"As of last week, 728 mayors, whose cities house a quarter of the nation's population, have signed what amounts to a Kyoto Protocol for U.S. municipalities. By joining the mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, launched three years ago, they have formally pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions by their cities to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, which is also Kyoto's target."
"And the mayors have set a goal to further cut their cities' emissions by 80% by 2050 -- the amount most scientists say is needed to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change."
"Despite their green enthusiasm, however, many cities are hard put to calculate the actual level of their greenhouse gases back to 1990, the benchmark in their pledge."
"In some cases, data is unavailable. And though several nonprofits offer technical assistance and new software is being sold to crunch the numbers, no standard model exists to assess progress."
"And how much of their emissions can cities in fact control? Vehicle tailpipes, a huge source of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases, are regulated by Congress, which is reluctant to mandate strict fuel efficiency in the face of a strong auto manufacturers lobby. And except when they own utilities, cities have little control over power plants."