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Many 'Green' mayors fall short

Despite support of local greening efforts, cities will have to more than redouble their efforts in order to make a real difference, say experts.

By / November 8, 2007

Mayors from around the United States gathered in Seattle late last week to cheer local efforts to fight global warming. More than 700 of them have pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in their cities in a sort of local Kyoto treaty.

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At the meeting, former President Clinton announced that his climate initiative would offer help by partnering with Wal-Mart to create a bulk-buying club to lower prices on green building materials and energy-efficient technologies for cities.

Working to fight climate change, Clinton said, "is a godsend ... not castor oil that we have to drink." He continued, as the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported:

"It is in my view, for the United States, the greatest economic opportunity that we've had since we mobilized for World War II. And if we do it right, it will produce job gains and income gains substantially greater than those produced in the 1990s when I had the privilege to be president."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a national carbon tax, which would have to be approved by Congress and the president – an unlikely prospect. That didn't keep him from issuing his appeal. "When there's a major challenge, we don't wait for others to act. We lead! And we lead by example. That's what all of us here are doing," the mayor said in his speech, which was published on a New York Times blog. He added:

"This conference has highlighted just how much local leadership there is on the issue of climate change and how many innovative new projects are going on in cities around the country: Seattle's incentives for greening existing buildings, Los Angeles's million tree initiative, Miami's bus rapid transit program – and the list goes on."

Mayor Dan Coody of Fayetteville, Ark., enthused about the efforts his city is making to go green, including downtown redevelopment, in a New York Times story:

" 'I'm so excited to be here and talk about this I can't stand it,' Mr. Coody said at the end of his presentation on Thursday. 'Let's all go save the world!' "

But so far only Portland, Ore., has come close to meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol – reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, which is only five years away. And analysts say it'll take a lot more than the current effort for cities to make a real difference.