Editor's note: We see this as a potentially very important effort and have already been in contact with the organizers in Seattle to see how we here can support and interact with them to extend the international reach and impact of their program in parallel with the Kyoto Cities Challenge.
Mayor urging other U.S. cities to enact Kyoto Protocol
By Kathy Mulady,
Energy converts in Seattle doing their part
Nickels said he is gathering support from mayors in other cities and plans to build a "green" coalition of his counterparts at the U.S. Conference of Mayors when the group meets in Chicago in June.
"Seattle, along with other U.S. cities, will provide the leadership necessary to meet this threat," Nickels said.
He plans to introduce a resolution at the mayors conference setting up the coalition for other cities to join. To be eligible, cities would have to agree to certain steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The details of the resolution are still being worked out.
The Kyoto Protocol was hammered out in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and commits countries to reduce or limit the output of six gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal and oil products.
By 2012 the European Union, for example, is to reduce emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels and Japan by 6 percent.
The United States had envisioned a 7 percent reduction, signed the protocol in 1997, but in 2001, President Bush renounced the agreement, saying compliance would cost millions of U.S. jobs.
In the meantime, many cities across the country, including Seattle, have adopted the Kyoto Protocol standards, or set even higher goals.
When the city of Seattle adopted the Kyoto Protocol four years ago, while Paul Schell was mayor, it joined nearly 100 other U.S. cities in setting reduction targets.
The 2001 resolution called for dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the city, and calling on national leaders to support targets at least as aggressive as those described in the Kyoto Protocol.
Nickels said he will work with the state Legislature to pass the clean-car bill, requiring stronger emission standards for cars sold in Washington. The legislation is based on a similar law adopted in California.
Nickels has also directed city departments to reduce paper use 30 percent by the end of 2006 and said that global warming will be a consideration in doling out neighborhood matching fund grants.
Yesterday, Nickels also announced a commission on climate protection that will be led by Denis Hayes, founder of the first Earth Day and president of the environmentally focused Bullitt Foundation. Orin Smith, president of Starbucks Coffee Co., also will lead the committee.
In making his announcement yesterday, Nickels was flanked by Hayes and Steve Howard, chief executive of the Climate Group, a non-profit based in London dedicated to slowing greenhouse gas emissions.
Hayes described the effects of global warming that are already being seen in Europe. He described small indicators such as bees that no longer hibernate and a 2003 heat wave that killed thousands in Europe.
"Early movers like Seattle have a farsighted advantage in taking a leadership position," Howard said. "It is good for business, good for the community and good for the world."
Some see evidence of global warming in the Pacific Northwest where the snowpack provides water, hydroelectricity and irrigation. According to reports, the Cascade snowpack is down 50 percent since 1950.
The city of Seattle government has reduced its emissions 60 percent since 1990, said Steve Nicholas, director of the city's Office of Sustainability and Environment. The city required more fuel efficiency in its cars and attempted to reduce the number of trips taken.
However, communitywide it is a different story, according to a report by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
By 2010 emissions are expected to increase 21 percent above the 1990 number, and by 38 percent by 2020.
About 50 percent of those emissions come from vehicles.
Councilwoman Jean Godden, head of the city's energy and environmental policy committee, was in Olympia yesterday to testify in support of the proposed clean car legislation. The bill calls on manufacturers to dramatically reduce car emissions by 2012.
"Interestingly enough, by doing that it could save people about $18 a month in gasoline costs," Godden said.
She said she is excited about Nickels' plans.
"As we know, the council adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, and now the mayor has taken it a step farther and is challenging other cities to do the same," she said. "I am very excited, we are going the right direction and setting the standard. "
Councilman Richard Conlin, who was also in Olympia yesterday, called Nickels' announcement "great."
"All of those things are wonderful; we are glad to have him on board," Conlin said.
K.C. Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, said Seattle is well positioned to set the standard for other cities.
"This was ground zero for the information revolution, we have more than our share of the world's innovators here," he said. "Our contribution to the solution can be bigger than our contribution to the problem."
Mayors in some other cities have already pledged to work with Seattle.
In a statement, Portland Mayor Tom Potter said his city was the first in the country to adopt a policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are proud that the people of Seattle share our vision for turning the crisis of global warming into an opportunity to transform our economy and leave a healthier planet for our children and grandchildren," he said.
Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, Calif., added his support. Oakland has set a goal of 15 percent reduction by 2010.
This report includes information from The Associated Press.