Mayors Drop Cap and Trade from New Climate Agreement

The U.S. Conference of Mayors signed a voluntary agreement to reduce carbon emissions in their respective cities, as they did ten years ago, but dropped the provision that they lobby Congress to pass a cap and trade bill to reduce emissions.

2 minute read

July 13, 2014, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


"In anticipation of the climate agreement’s 10-year anniversary, members of the Conference of Mayors decided to renew their climate vows, but without one major provision from the original agreement: Mayors who sign the new document [PDF] won’t be lobbying Congress for a national 'cap-and-trade' system," writes J.B. Wogan about the Mayors' 82nd Annual Meeting held in Dallas, Texas from June 22-23.

As it turns out, cap and trade has become a divisive issue, at least for the Republican Party, notwithstanding the fact that "the idea originated with an attorney in the Reagan administration, who argued for a market-based approach to reduce sulfur dioxide from power plants, a major contributor to acid rain," adds Wogan.

“Cap and trade is an issue that could divide the group,” said Carmel, Indiana, Mayor Jim Brainard, a co-chair of the Conference’s climate task force and a Republican. “Rather than split mayors up over partisan disagreements, we wanted to focus on actually doing something,” said Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Bill Finch, the other climate co-chair and a Democrat.

The 2004 mayors' agreement was in direct response to President Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Since then, many mayors have made climate protection a priority, though as we noted two years ago, it's not clear that those emission reductions resulted from the climate plans the cities approved.

Over time, the mayoral pledge grew in popularity from an initial list 140 co-signers to more than 1,060 by 2014.

The division over cap and trade notwithstanding, the agreement is a strong showing of the mayors' understanding of the threats posed by climate change. Unlike many Republicans in Congress who have adopted the line, "I'm not a scientist" when asked about their belief in climate change, co-chair Brainard has been unequivocal in his commitment to reducing emissions due to the threat of climate change.

Marcia G. Yerman of The Huffington Post writes, "Brainard was tapped to be on President Obama's Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. He won first place honors [along with then-Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels] from the 2008 Mayor's Climate Protection Awards Program."

Rather than advocating that Congress support cap and trade, it might be more practical for mayors to consider raising city or state gas taxes, as a group of mayors in Vancouver, Canada tried to do in 2011.

We end with the announcement that the conference's top winners of the 2014 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards [PDF] were Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman [note the announcement of new solar-powered parking station accepting credit cards replacing outdated coin-only meters] and Gresham, Ore. Mayor Shane Bemis.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 in Governing

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