February 2021 – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
Climate Mayors Steering Committee member

The last year has been extraordinarily challenging. In the face of a global pandemic, a seismic economic downturn, a reckoning with racial injustice, and the ongoing threat of climate change, cities across the country are under enormous pressure. Throughout this time Climate Mayors have called for a “green and equitable recovery,” issuing a letter to Congress in July and launching a National Dialogue series that same month, the first event of which focused on the Southeast. The message has been straightforward – cities are committed to taking ambitious action on climate change, but they need a constructive federal partner to fully realize and expand their efforts.

That partner now exists in the White House. Since taking office, President Biden has returned the United States to the Paris Agreement, and has issued a series of executive orders articulating his whole-of-government approach, one grounded in equity and sustainability. I can remember when the Climate Mayors network began in 2014, as we were organizing for COP21 and the Paris Climate Agreement, and it’s truly amazing to see over 470 cities actively demonstrating climate leadership and advancing solutions in our cities today. Climate Mayors is in an incredible position to partner with the new Administration, and drive ambitious, equitable climate solutions at the local, state, national, and international levels.

The City of Orlando started our sustainability journey almost 15 years ago by launching our Green Works Orlando initiative in 2007, which has now evolved into a permanent Office of Sustainability and Resilience. Since the launch of Green Works, our strategy has focused heavily on decreasing carbon emissions by reducing energy use in buildings through energy-efficiency policies and programs; ramping up renewable energy, including utility-scale solar farms, rooftop solar projects, and floating solar on our retention ponds; improving public transit and micromobility through bus rapid transit (BRT), commuter trains, and a network of bike and scooter trails; and electrifying our municipal fleets and buses, and enabling EVs for consumers and visitors.

Through these interventions, Orlando has seen a 19-percent reduction in our GHG emissions from 2007 levels – and almost double from a per capita standpoint – while continuing to grow our economy in a steady way. But our work has only begun, and the next decade of action will be essential to achieving our community goals.

Last year, during the most disruptive crisis in modern history with COVID-19, we decided to continue with, and to double-down on, our commitment to sustainability and climate action. We believe the health of our environment, our community, and our economy are intrinsically linked. And we know that our sustainability programs are getting us closer to a future that is healthier, more prosperous, and more resilient to future shocks.

With that in mind, we have kept our ambitious agenda moving forward by installing four new rooftop solar projects on fire stations to enhance resilience and reduce operational expenses; implementing a new Green Building Incentive Program to encourage new development to build healthier, greener buildings for the community; expanding the number of new Level 2 EV charging stations to city parks, neighborhood centers, and parking facilities; unveiling our first fleet of zero-emission electric buses in our downtown, with 14 that will be in operation by the end of the year; and becoming a recognized LEED Gold City by the USGBC.

From a climate perspective, I’m proud of the commitments of our municipal electric and water utility, the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC), who finished an 18-month integrated resources plan to forecast the future of Orlando’s electric grid. After considerable community and stakeholder engagement, as well as alignment with the City’s climate goals, the OUC unanimously approved a plan to reach net-zero carbon without offsets by 2050, with intermediate targets of 50 percent by 2030 and 75 percent by 2040; retire the last two coal plants by 2027 – earlier than originally planned – with considerable reduction of coal in 2025; and commit to strictly solar, energy storage, and energy efficiency from now to 2050.

Lastly, I think it’s important that we realize that the global pandemic has hit communities of color and low-income families the hardest – the same residents and neighborhoods who suffer most from the effects of climate change, including dangerous emissions, energy burdens, skyrocketing temperatures, and extreme weather events like hurricanes. Last month, in an effort to address these disparities, I appointed the City’s first Equity Official to support us in our journey to ensure that as we advance sustainability and climate solutions, we do so in a way that focuses on equity and inclusion.

We’ve made great progress to date but have much more work to do. I’m proud that the Climate Mayors are determined to build a strong, green, and equitable economy that ensures all Americans are prepared for future health, economic, and environmental shocks.

January 2021 – Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill

Beverly, MA Mayor Michael Cahill
Climate Mayors Steering Committee member

In these early days of the new year, we are heartened and energized by the Biden Administration’s urgent focus on climate change, as demonstrated through the series of Executive Orders vowing monumental action in cutting emissions. I joined the US Climate Mayors in 2017 in response to the former President’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, and I’m incredibly excited to continue working with so many great local, state, and now Federal partners to fight climate change. 

With a population of 43,000, five train stations, 14 miles of coastline, and located twenty miles north of Boston, we are actively building Beverly’s resilience to the rising sea while doing everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to these changes. We’re learning as we go, and trying to take as many meaningful steps as we can to move Beverly forward on our path to net zero as a community. Here are some recent examples.

In the past decade, we have installed 7.5 MW of solar on municipal land, with 4.7 MW more to be brought online in 2021, as we seek to capture the potential of every parcel of city-owned land. As a state-designated Green Community, we’ve improved energy efficiency at most of our public buildings, and switched all our street lights to LED bulbs. This summer, our new, nearly net-zero police station will be heated and cooled by a geothermal system, with both rooftop and canopy solar arrays, bringing us one step closer to meeting our goal for clean-powered municipal operations by 2030.

We have also begun to build robust EV charging infrastructure in our municipal parking facilities, with four electric vehicle charging stations online and nine more to be installed in the next few months, including four Level 3 charging stations. We have deployed our first electric school bus with another on the way, and are in the process of launching a green municipal aggregation program to make renewable electricity accessible to all of our community members.

Understanding that this work must be scaled quickly, we have joined regional advocacy initiatives to enact statewide policy and address shared transportation challenges. The threats of climate change are shared, and so must be the solutions. We are at the midpoint of developing a joint climate action plan, called Resilient Together, in partnership with our neighboring City of Salem to realize our collective vision for a resilient and sustainable future.

Together we have set citywide carbon neutrality goals by mid-century, with community resilience, economic vitality, and natural resource protection at the forefront. As we seek to integrate climate mitigation into our everyday operations, we strive to strengthen partnerships with and demonstrate leadership to the community organizations, institutions, and utilities inside and outside our geographic bounds. 

The next decade of climate action is critical for our future, and we are more committed than ever to move boldly at every level to ensure a bright, safe, and sustainable future for our kids and grandchildren. We welcome the federal administration’s leadership to help us deliver the strong and urgent action needed across the country and the world.

November 2020 – Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh

Dear Colleagues,

I’m very proud to be named new Chair of the Climate Mayors. As mayors, we’re close to the people we serve. We see how climate change is already impacting the residents in our cities, and we know how important it is to take decisive action for the sake of public safety and public health. American cities have led on climate action for a long time, and especially over the last four years. I thank you all for your leadership and partnership. As we welcome a new Federal administration that is committed to urgent, bold climate policies, I look forward to accelerating our efforts together with all of you.

I am grateful to Mayor Eric Garcetti for his leadership of this network over the last seven years. He ensured the sustained growth and impact of the Climate Mayors. As he continues to lead C40, our two networks will build on our close partnership in order to pursue ambitious action in our cities and drive an equally ambitious national and international climate agenda.

I also want to thank Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for his continued leadership as Co-Chair of the Climate Mayors. As Mayor of the “Energy Capital of the World,” Mayor Turner has prioritized the transition to clean energy and building more resilient communities at the center of his agenda. I look forward to continuing our work together as we expand the reach of our network.

We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, with the ongoing global pandemic. As a country, our recovery efforts must be rooted in equity and sustainability. As we rebuild our economy, we need to focus on green jobs. We need to look at the economic and social conditions that made some populations more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially people of color, immigrants, and low-income families. Those same populations are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Now is the time to heal our nation, by investing in long-term community health and wellbeing. Climate action must be central to our national COVID-19 recovery, and our efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

Engaging with Washington on the national response to COVID-19 will be a top priority for the Climate Mayors moving forward. We should also continue working to strengthen our partnerships with other climate networks, including the C40, the US Conference of Mayors, and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. We need to continue building a broad coalition around this work. We need to show that everyone stands to benefit from climate action, and everyone has a role to play in making it happen. We should also keep creating more leadership opportunities within the Climate Mayors. We represent more than 450 cities and tens of millions of Americans. There is so much diversity within our membership. Everyone has something different to contribute, and we want to make sure we’re drawing on all of that talent and all of their insights.

As we work with the Biden-Harris administration on large scale solutions at the national level, we should continue to point to the solutions we’re advancing in our own cities to show what’s possible when we work together, get creative, and make climate action a priority in everything we do. While the incoming Biden-Harris administration has committed to re-entering the Paris accord and is planning a series of executive orders to reverse many of the Trump administration’s deregulatory actions, Boston and many cities across the country are already moving ahead with our local climate goals. In Boston, we recently debuted our Zero-Emission Vehicle Roadmap, a long-term strategy to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and other zero-emission transportation. The plan calls for electric vehicle charging stations in every city neighborhood by 2023 and a totally electrified city fleet, and lays out plans to help residents afford electric vehicles. Boston also recently released two more neighborhood-level climate resiliency plans as part of our ongoing Climate Ready Boston initiative, we are in the process of developing a city-wide urban forestry master plan, and we will launch our Community Choice Electricity municipal aggregation program in February.

I know that many of your cities have recently advanced bold climate solutions as well, with more to come in the year ahead.  Anything that comes from Washington will be carried out by cities, so mayors need to shape, advocate for, and deliver a green and equitable recovery that meets the unique needs of our communities.

COVID-19 has made it clear that we need to plan for the future, we need to listen to scientists, and we need to make sustainability a fundamental value of our society. Everything we want to accomplish right now — public health, public safety, racial justice, economic growth, and an equitable recovery from COVID-19 — it all depends on a healthy environment. Climate action is the best investment we can make in our cities now to ensure a resilient future. It’s time to heal our nation by investing in long-term community well-being and health. Climate action is at heart of that work, and the Climate Mayors are in a position to play a more significant role than ever before. I look forward to the work that lies ahead, and I thank all of you for your commitment and your partnership.

Sincerely, Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Climate Mayors Chair

July 2020 – Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
Climate Mayors Steering Committee Member

This year, mayors have faced crises that have shaken the country and disproportionately affected our underserved communities. Although we are often short on resources, we are the leaders on the front lines, dealing head-on with unprecedented challenges. And in the midst of these issues, we continue to contend with the implications of climate change on our cities.

At the local level, our job as leaders is to provide a safe and healthy environment for our residents and to be good stewards of our cities. As a father of two young boys, it is important to me that Dallas continues to thrive so that my sons can grow up in a better city than I did. It is imperative that we pursue policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the impacts of climate change on residents and businesses, and work to build healthier, more prosperous communities.

That’s why I created the Environment & Sustainability Committee, the first-ever standalone Dallas City Council committee devoted to environmental issues, and I made the creation and implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) its No. 1 priority.

In late May, the City Council unanimously passed the CECAP, the city’s first-ever environmental plan. The plan is built on engagement with an incredibly broad and diverse set of community stakeholders. This process, and the unanimous outcome, represented a significant step forward for equity, environmental justice, and resilience in Dallas.

The CECAP outlines 97 actions the city can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental quality in every ZIP code in the city while also accommodating the needs of the business community. The plan has eight overarching goals:

  • Making buildings more efficient;
  • Generating and encouraging renewable, reliable, and affordable energy;
  • Ensuring communities have access to sustainable, affordable, transportation options;
  • Making Dallas a zero-waste community;
  • Protecting water resources and communities from flooding and drought;
  • Protecting and enhancing the city’s ecosystems, trees, and green spaces that in turn improve public health;
  • Providing all communities with access to healthy, locally grown, and sustainable food; and
  • Ensuring all Dallas communities breathe clean air.

For decades, Dallas has faced numerous environmental challenges. We have contended with air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards throughout our city, but particularly in underserved areas. I know this struggle firsthand; I grew up in the shadow of a lead smelter plant in West Dallas. Now, I believe, we are taking steps to overcome such challenges and to make Dallas a global leader in addressing environmental issues.

I am proud of our work to create this plan, which will mean a more just, equitable, and resilient future for all Dallasites, including my two sons.

June 2020 – Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nicola Armacost

Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nicola Armacost

Cities, towns, and villages across the United States continue to face a host of challenges entering the Summer of 2020. Cases of COVID-19 are rising in regions of the country that have not felt the full brunt of the virus to date. The economy remains under severe pressure given the nature of the virus, and the number of jobless claims continues to stagger the mind. And we see both these issues as contributing and related to the broader issue of systemic racial injustice that has led to protests across the country.  All of these are combined with and compounded by the risks of a changing climate.

We must meet these crises head on and embrace policies and programs that simultaneously address COVID-19, economic growth, racial and environmental justice, and climate change. The technologies are available to us to build back better. We need to take advantage of them, seizing the moment to reimagine our communities so that they are healthier and more resilient to future shocks.

To that end, the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson has been prioritizing policies and programs that have multiple benefits for our environment and our economy. In 2009, New York State launched the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program, an interagency initiative that encourages local communities to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. In 2010, Hastings-on-Hudson was designated as a Climate Smart Community (CSC) by the state. The Climate Smart Communities Certification Program is a set of 100 actions, developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, that provides a transformational roadmap for municipalities. Under this program, Hastings-on-Hudson, together with participating communities across the state, has committed to transitioning to zero carbon emissions, investing in community resilience, restoring ecosystems, building a more just, healthy, and livable future, and doing our part within our region and beyond to contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation.

In September 2019, we established a Climate Smart Communities Task Force (CSC TF) to help document actions taken to mitigate against or adapt to climate change. The CSC TF also planned a broad suite of new initiatives that will ensure a climate-resilient environment for the future. Since its establishment, the Hastings-on-Hudson CSC TF has documented and secured approval for 48 actions and, as a result, the Village was designated a bronze-certified Climate Smart Community in March 2020.

In spite of the challenges posed by the COVID crisis, Hastings-on-Hudson has been pursuing a number of cutting-edge green initiatives that are very much aligned with the principles outlined in Governor Cuomo’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  Here are a few examples of the initiatives we have been pursuing while everyone was in lockdown.

On June 18, 2020, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution to adopt the New York Stretch Energy Code. Hastings-on-Hudson is one of the first municipalities in New York State to adopt the Code and is the first in Westchester County. We plan to integrate the NY Stretch Code into a planned update of the Green Building Code that was adopted on October 1, 2013.

On the same day, the Board of Trustees also passed a local law known as “A Local Law to Establish a Sustainable Energy Loan Program (Open C-Pace) in the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson”. The local law establishes a program that will allow the Energy Improvement Corporation (EIC), a local development corporation, to act on behalf of Hastings-on-Hudson to make funds available to qualified property owners that will be repaid through charges on the real properties benefited by such funds. Qualified property owners (commercial property owners and not-for-profits) will be able to access financing for the installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency measures. This local law provides a method of implementing this arrangement, thereby allowing qualified property owners to receive low-cost, long-term dedicated financing for the installation of clean energy systems.

And lastly, in May, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution committing our local government to promoting the use of low embodied carbon concrete products in building and infrastructure projects within Hastings-on-Hudson. This resolution is part of a larger effort to reduce the Village’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The simple act of switching to low-embodied carbon concrete can make a radical difference in lowering carbon emissions. Low-embodied concrete is concrete that has been verified, as measured by a Global Warming Potential (GWP) metric to embody lower carbon emissions as compared to the baseline embodied carbon emissions of conventional concrete. Lowering the embodied carbon emissions from concrete can be achieved through diverse methods and processes, including but not limited to: (a) using less cement in concrete mixes; (b) replacing or substituting cement with supplemental cementitious materials (SCMs) such as fly ash, blast furnace slag, or ground glass pozzolan; (c) using locally produced cement and other concrete components resulting in reduced emissions from transport; (d) the utilization and mineralization of carbon in concrete materials. The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson is the first municipality in New York State to publicly commit to promoting the use of this technology.

These are meaningful actions that lay the foundation for our municipality to build back better. Through the work of our CSC TF and other Boards and Commissions of the Village we plan to continue pursuing ambitious polices so as to ensure the systemic change necessary to meet the full scope and scale of the climate crisis.

April 2020 – Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
Climate Mayors Steering Committee Member

The spread of the novel coronavirus has required an urgent, coordinated, global response to minimize the human toll of this pandemic. Like all cities, we in Madison have a laser focus on addressing the immediate public health risks and maintaining the safety and wellbeing of our communities. We’re focused on flattening the curve and ensuring food access and housing support for all our residents. While we are focused on these priorities now, we must also start looking toward long-term economic recovery.

At the same time, we must not take our eye off the greatest threat of our generation – the risks of catastrophic climate change.

As we work to rebuild our communities, the same themes that have been fundamental to the fight against climate change — green jobs, clean infrastructure, just transitions, resilience, and support for frontline and vulnerable communities — must all be core to economic stimulus packages designed to get the country back on track. We should not be satisfied with building back the economies we had. We should build back the economies we want.

In Madison, we’re experiencing an increase in flooding due to climate change; our utility generates half our electricity from coal; and we have serious racial disparities related to health and housing affordability. I see economic opportunities in Madison that help address all of these issues.

We have a major need to invest in our housing stock in Madison. Sub-standard housing that has been impacted by flooding is leading to an increase in childhood asthma from the subsequent mold issues. The health impacts from mold exacerbate issues already felt by families related to high energy bills and drafty homes. What if we invested in these homes while preserving their affordability? Funding for mold remediation, weatherization, and rooftop solar could help lower bills, improve health and comfort, reduce carbon emissions, and increase our supply of quality affordable housing, all while creating living wage, skilled trade jobs.

Madison’s lakes are also being impacted by climate change. Increased runoff from more intense storms combined with warmer temperatures result in increased algae blooms. The degrading water quality impacts lake ecosystems, our health, and the sectors of our economy that support water-based recreation. We know we need to dramatically increase our use of distributed green infrastructure to manage both the quantity and quality of urban water entering the lakes. We’re currently identifying the specific solutions we need in different areas of the city. But implementing them all could take many years. An infusion of funding for infrastructure projects could accelerate our progress, improve community connections to nature in the city, and grow a next-generation workforce of designers, engineers, utility workers, and maintenance workers who understand a new level of integration between cities and nature.

An economic stimulus can help cities grow sectors of our economy that address multiple community needs and make us more resilient in the long-run. As we see recovery bills coming from the federal government in the coming months, we must advocate that funds be directed in ways that center people, equity, climate and environmental health. We can support the creation of better-paying and more stable jobs than the ones that were lost. And we can help direct these jobs to the communities that need them most, reducing poverty levels and racial disparities in the process, which benefits us all. We can build clean and rapid community transit and clean energy systems, and help solve the climate crisis in the process. We can provide safe, efficient and affordable housing for those who need it. And we can make sure that everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.

The place to achieve these goals is in cities. Federal support for cities is fundamental to our recovery. Not only are cities under severe financial stress due to COVID-19; cities are critical hubs of innovation. The work happening in cities leads to 21st century solutions. It grows a new and better workforce while significantly reducing carbon emissions and improving our quality of life. Any successful effort to address the climate crisis and restore the economy will require working closely with cities to deliver meaningful outcomes and a resilient future.

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years. Every level of government will need to be focused on rebuilding our economy while maintaining public health. We must all work together to ensure that our economic recovery leads to a just and equitable transition for all Americans, ensuring we are more resilient to future health, economic and environmental shocks.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires us to invest in building our economy back up. Let’s build back better. Let’s make our economy, our environment, and our people stronger and more resilient in the long-run.