Phoenix, Atlanta Mayors: If U.S. Pulls Out of Paris Deal, Cities Will Act Alone

If President-elect Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said mayors of large cities will convene to express their support for the deal.

“Within about a week, American mayors will physically get together and sign on to that agreement on behalf of the people that we represent,” Stanton told Morning Consult in an interview.

Stanton’s statement was more a prediction than a concrete plan, he said he does not know “what it will be called or where we’ll meet.” But the mayors of several large cities have already been vocal in their support for the Paris deal. As of Jan. 18, the mayors of 66 cities with a combined population of more than 37 million had signed a letter calling on Trump to “embrace” the agreement.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told Morning Consult in an interview he believes cities can achieve a 25 to 35 percent reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions without help from the federal government, “through measures that really constitute low-hanging fruit.” He said that’s not enough to fully address the threat of climate change, but said mayors can have a significant impact.

Cities aren’t technically a party to the Paris agreement, which has been signed by 174 countries and the European Union. While mayors don’t typically have much authority over the power sector, some have taken steps to promote energy efficiency in buildings and develop cleaner methods of transportation.

Reed touted some of the steps his city has already taken on its own to cut emissions. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport recently installed 102 electric-vehicle charging stations, and it has plans to install another 200 in the next year, Reed said. The city also launched a fleet of electric municipal cars. And Atlanta officials helped the city of Orlando develop its own citywide sustainability ordinance, he said.

In 2015, Atlanta also passed an ordinance requiring large commercial buildings to publish reports on their energy use. The same year, Stanton and his allies on the Phoenix city council were stymied by Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature, which passed a bill banning any city from requiring energy-use reporting requirements for commercial buildings.

Stanton criticized state lawmakers for meddling in city affairs, saying efficiency ordinances have been “hugely successful” in other cities. He also lamented the tension between Arizona’s Republican-dominated legislature and the mayors of its more left-leaning cities, saying “the majority of our state legislature is climate deniers.”

Reed faces a similar challenge in Georgia. When he pushed for an expansion of Atlanta’s public transit system last year, he ultimately had to compromise with mayors to the north of his city, who wanted more money for roads and bridges, as opposed to expanding the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority rail system. The state legislature ultimately passed a bill allowing Atlanta residents to vote on a half-cent sales tax, which passed, to fund a smaller expansion of the rail system than Reed had originally hoped.

Stanton and Reed both said they haven’t talked to anyone in Trump’s transition team, and transition officials did not respond to an immediate request for comment from Morning Consult. But Reed said he’ll take a similar approach to working with a Republican White House as he has with Republican state lawmakers.

“What I’m prepared to do is be hopeful and optimistic, with an extended hand, [in a way] that doesn’t interfere with my work,” Reed said.

Morning Consult