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May 20, 2005

Smackdown: 146 and Counting

Major props to Seattle mayor Greg Nickels who recently started the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. It is becoming something of a smackdown to federal leadership that refuses to take global warming seriously. The idea is simple: if the US government won't ratify the Kyoto Protocol, then the constituent parts of the nation will.

So Seattle made the pledge to meet Kyoto's standards (reduce greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent from 1990 levels by 2012); and then Nickels started rounding up other cities to join in. The response has been overwhelming, and not just from small-fry or blue-state cities either. The full list is here. Following are a few of my favorites:

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Miami, Newark, Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Louisville, New Orleans, Boston, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Austin, Portland, and Tacoma.

It's a surprisingly diverse list, drawing together nearly 31 million Americans from 36 states--everywhere from Cambridge, Mass to Macon, Georgia to Gary, Indiana. Nickel's initiative picked up some nice media coverage in the New York Times recently, among other places.

For Cascadia counters: The list includes 12 cities in Washington, 3 in Oregon, 2 in Montana, and 30 in California. None, so far, in Idaho or Alaska.

UPDATE: Some other non-Cascadian pledges worth noting: The states of New York, Massachusetts, and Maine have all pledged to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2020. New Jersey has pledged 5 percent reductions by 2005. Taken together, these northeast state initiatives add up to more than 35 million Americans who are pledging to Kyoto-like carbon targets.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


You might have pointed out that the Canadian Liberal government just passed funds to implement their Kyoto obligation -- no independent city actions needed there!

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is that carbon reduction REALLY means energy reduction. There are no carbon-neutral alternatives that are capable of taking up the slack in the time allotted.

I think that's a wonderful thing, but I doubt the 31 million Americans understand that Kyoto really means a 7% cut in the profligate life style they've become used to!

Posted by: Jan Steinman | May 20, 2005 5:10:01 PM

Good point, Jan. Canada deserves much credit for ratifying and funding Kyoto. But keep in mind, Canada is not exactly exemplary either when it comes to carbon emissions and energy consumption.

On a per capita basis, Canadians produce 95 percent as much carbon as Americans. And the Canadian economy is actually more carbon-intensive than the United States. Canada produces 25 percent more carbon to generate $1 of wealth than does the United States. In fact, Canada has one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the entire world.

Also, Canada agreed to 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which is less than most other Western countries, including the U.S. (7%)
(which, of course, hasn't ratified...)

Canadians are right to be proud of their government's commitment to climate protection, especially in light of the US federal government's irresponsibility. But on a per capita basis, Canadians are every bit as profligate as Americans.

Posted by: Eric de Place | May 23, 2005 10:07:35 AM