17 February 2005

17.02.05. Activist touts local initiative to cut pollution

Activist touts local initiative to cut pollution

By Bob Young, Seattle Times staff reporter, February 17, 2005

Will other cities follow Seattle's lead in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which have been blamed for global warming? Earth Day founder Denis Hayes thinks so.

That's why Hayes was at City Hall yesterday to tout an initiative by Mayor Greg Nickels that commits the Emerald City to meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto treaty, which went into effect yesterday, commits 35 industrialized nations to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The pact set a 2012 goal for the United States to reduce emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels, but the Bush administration has refused to endorse the treaty, saying it could hurt the U.S. economy.

Greenhouse gases come mainly from burning fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide.
Nickels said yesterday he would create a "green ribbon" commission that would come up with a blueprint for Seattle to meet or beat Kyoto's targets.

That commission will be chaired by Orin Smith, who will retire next month as Starbucks CEO, and Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation.

Greenhouse-gas emissions in the Puget Sound region increased 8 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and are projected to increase 21 percent over 1990 levels by 2010.

While Seattle contributes a negligible amount to global warming, Hayes said Seattle could influence other cities to reduce their emissions. "Absolutely, I expect others to follow," he said.

More importantly, Hayes said cities should lead the way given the federal government's resistance to the Kyoto treaty.

Nickels agreed, adding that Seattle could show "the cost is minimal or there isn't a cost at all" to meeting Kyoto targets.

Nickels said he would lead a "green" coalition at the next meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Ten other cities already have agreed to join the coalition, including Minneapolis, Portland and Salt Lake City.

Seattle's green-ribbon commission will start its work in the next month or two and will try to come up with a citywide plan by the end of the year, according to Steve Nicholas, director of the city's Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Nicholas said he expected the mayor to appoint 15 to 20 members from business, academic, labor and government circles.

Hayes said he expected the commission to come up with bold ideas.

"This is not going to be 'turn out your lights when you leave rooms.' We'll be looking for ways we can dramatically decarbonize the economy and at the same time make it robust," he said.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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