Dozens of mayors from across North America, including at least 36 U.S. cities are expected to sign an agreement on Tuesday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the commitments laid out on a global scale in the Paris Climate Accord. The Chicago Climate Charter, to be signed at the North American Climate Summit in Chicago, signals an important step towards reducing emissions and creating jobs of the future, according to sustainability researchers at Cornell University.
Lara Skinner, associate director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University and chair of the institute’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, studies labor and its relationship with climate crises. She says the Chicago Climate Charter demonstrates a commitment to working Americans.
“The decision by dozens of U.S. mayors to sign their own climate accord, despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, demonstrates the bold leadership the world needs today to address the worsening impacts of climate change.
“Working people are hurt first and worst by climate change – this was made clear by Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey as well as the fires in the western U.S. this year. U.S. mayors’ ambitious commitments to reduce global warming pollution can help protect working people from the worst impacts of climate change and put people to work in good jobs in solar, wind, public transit, building retrofitting and more. Numerous studies have shown that job creation in clean energy sectors creates many more jobs per million invested than jobs in capital-intensive, traditional fossil fuel sectors.
“As the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. has a unique responsibility to lead the way in dramatically reducing pollution and an incredible opportunity to become an international leader in important clean energy sectors like offshore wind.
“As climate scientists predict that 2013 to 2017 will register as the hottest years on record, bold and ambitious leadership to address climate change, create good jobs and build more equitable communities is needed now more than ever.”
Natalie Mahowald, faculty director of environment at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, says the ChicagoClimate Charter is an historic step towards meeting the climate goals laid out by the Paris Agreement.
“Climate change impacts will be felt at the neighborhood, community and city level, and it is important for our communities to be preparing for climate change. But most important is for our communities to be making every effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to meet low temperature change goals.
“The 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 23, really emphasized the role of cities and states, especially in the U.S., towards reaching the Paris agreement. The Chicago Climate Charter is a historic step forward towards meeting our goals. Since leadership is lacking at the national level, it is natural for the cities, who have to deal with the impacts the most, to be the leaders at solving climate change.
“Efforts by cities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while not sufficient to solve climate change, can play an important role.”
David Kay is senior extension associate with the Community and Regional Development Institute at Cornell University and a fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. He says the Chicago Climate Charter represents a key precedent and could spur on action at higher levels of government.
“There is little doubt that policies can be most successful when they are linked in tandem across all levels of government. That said, in order to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) challenge, each level of government and the private sector need to innovate.
“Globally, the United Nations estimates that cities account for nearly 70 percent of GHG emissions. Cities house almost two-thirds of U.S. residents who, in sum, are leading consumers of energy and energy intensive goods and services. The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that buildings – most located in cities – account for more carbon dioxide emissions than either industry or transportation. Globally, nearly a fifth of energy related GHG emissions trace back to buildings.
“Local governments play major roles in setting critical land use change, building, taxation, transportation and other policies affecting emissions. So much better to work together, to be sure, but progress never happens evenly in all sectors, and municipalities are setting important precedents by taking this initiative. Bottom up approaches to this issue may even stimulate change at the top.”