At a press conference held by civil society groups, 10 mayors and over 30 elected officials pledge to follow Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ lead on banning new fossil fuel infrastructure
VIDEO: On December 11, 2015, following a press conference from the mayors from five west coast cities–LA, San Francisco, Eugene, Portland and Seattle–who had gathered in Portland to discuss climate change. Civil society groups held their own press conference to present a list of ten west coast mayors–including the mayor of Richmond, CA, home to a Chevron refinery–and over 30 elected officials from West Coast cities who had pledged to follow Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ lead and put an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure in their jurisdictions. At the press conference, they also announced a declaration calling for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure on the West coast of the U.S. and Canada, which had garnered the support of groups representing millions of Americans and Canadians. CHARLIE HALES, MAYOR OF PORTLAND: Good morning, everyone, and welcome. When Pope Francis issued his encyclical Laudato Si, he tied together two seemingly separate issues, which is the climate and the care for our common home, and suffering of vulnerable people. And a lot of us were moved by that message, and in fact some of us as mayors had the chance to hear from him directly in Rome as he explained that connection between people’s lives and vulnerable people and climate change. And if we needed any further proof that he got it right and that that connection is real, we were yesterday working together as colleagues, bearing down on the issues of housing and homelessness, and the care for the vulnerable people of our society and our communities. And while that was happening we were setting another climate record for rainfall. We lost a Portlander from a tree falling on her home. And the news media was momentarily mesmerized by the fact that we had a tornado in one of our suburbs to the north. It’s not something that we’re used to having in the Northwest. Meanwhile, our colleagues in California are dealing with a historic drought that is a huge challenge for their cities. So we as mayors see that connection. In fact, we heard him refer to us as world leaders in that conversation, which was a little shocking to us at a humility level. But he’s right. Because in both housing and homelessness and climate, cities are where the forward motion lies and where the innovation and focus is most profound. And we are this morning engaged in that discussion, and in fact have signed a declaration together of joint effort and joint action and joint commitment that we’ll explicate a little bit here in our comments this morning, and that you’ll have a chance to look at later. Just as in housing we need the federal government to be an effective partner, we need state and federal partners in our work on climate as well. We need the Congress to continue the solar tax credit. We need transit funding to be there for us to be able to build the kinds of walkable, transit-served communities that we need. I’m very proud of the progress that we’ve made in transit. The Tilikum Crossing bridge is now a new symbol of our city. The only bridge of its kind that carries buses, streetcars, light rail, pedestrians, and bicycles, and no private automobiles. That’s very cool, we’re very proud of that. But it takes a decade to move a project like that from conception to completion. We’re going to grow from 600,000 people here in Portland to over 800,000 over the next 20 years. I and my colleagues on our council are spending a huge amount of time on our comprehensive plan, because that means game on. We have to figure out how to be a livable city of 800,000 people, a daunting and scary number. Well, we won’t succeed at that if we don’t add quite a bit more transit and walkability and bikeability to our city as we grow. And therefore this issue of moving quickly and effectively to put transit in place by whatever combination of local and federal means we can put together is a critical one for all of our cities. ED MURRAY, MAYOR OF SEATTLE: Yesterday’s issue of the discussion on homelessness and housing affordability and today’s issue on the environment are actually the same issue. In Seattle as we address the issue of affordability in our housing market and develop an aggressive plan to build that affordable housing, we’re building it in neighborhoods where people can walk to school. Get on a bus to go to work. Be able to walk to a park, or to the grocery store. That kind of connection around affordability and the environment, that means folks who work in our hospitality industry, folks who work in our healthcare system, can be near their homes and not in the outer suburbs driving in and out, and clogging up roads and degrading the environment. It’s good for them, it’s good for the environment. So we launched the Equity and the Environment initiative this year to work with communities of color and the environmental community so that their issues are the same issue, as well as target infrastructure investments related to the environment in our poorer neighborhoods. All of us are committed here today in moving forward to share best practices on equity and the environment, which are not two issues, but the same issue. Thank you. ERIC GARCETTI, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: I think what we’ve heard loud and clear is the urgency of this moment. The urgency of this moment that we feel certainly in California between drought, and fires, the monster El Nino that is expected to come to visit to us, are all manifestations of the urgency of what climate change has wreaked upon my city and our state. We feel that along the West Coast, but there’s also the urgency of this political moment. And whether it’s the Pope, whether it’s that we are having this convening as the national leaders in Paris are about to release hopefully the compact that they’ve come to. It means that the urgency of this political alliance has never been this important, either. The Mayors Climate Action Agenda, which all of these cities are a part of, has been a historic coming together of mayors from around the country to have an accountable, open, transparent and detailed road map, not just to make pledges and plans but to actually implement them, and that’s some of the best practices that we share. Los Angeles is now the green jobs capital of America, and we’ve put our direct government dollars into investing in both private companies that improve the environment and create jobs as well as looking at the impact on climate change. And we looked at the ways that those strategic investments can help people, oftentimes with lower skills, to be solar panel installers. To look at the work that we’re doing around water, to change out our very thirsty lawns in Los Angeles so that we can find more beautiful green plants that don’t take as much of our precious water, and other green jobs like that. And in particular around transportation, one of the things we looked at is how we could continue to transform that and create jobs as well as use our buying power collectively. So we’re looking at exploring a consortium for buying electric vehicles from the sedan level all the way up to medium and even heavy-duty trucks among all of our cities. And by putting out a request for information and interest from companies, we think that the West Coast can really drive changing the way, pun intended, people get around and the way that these vehicles are used. So this is a very historic moment for us to be able to do that and to connect with jobs and the environment. I’ll just close on this. It is such a sea change. Ten years ago people said, well, places like California and the West Coast, of course they’re going to do this stuff. But these are going to be jobs killers. Well, California is experiencing historic job growth. Not just because of the size of our state, but even per capita in the top three in the country since the recession, while at the same time reducing our carbon, while having a cap and trade program. We don’t think that that is a coincidence. They have gone together. Not only have they not been in conflict, they have been in harmony. And we hope to continue to promote that as a group of mayors. ED LEE, MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: All of us mayors have in common, particularly these that are here, we are growing cities. And you would expect, the logic of that thought, is if you’re growing then your waste is growing. Well, it just so happens that when we make pledges and we implement them, you can literally reduce waste while your city grows. And that is more than a pledge. That’s reality, when you can commit to going after zero waste. We’re all doing high levels of composting and recycling. And once you educate the public even more in culture-competent ways, we can see in our lifetimes, particularly in our city that is at 81 percent recycling, that we can see zero waste, literally, before–certainly the kids that we’re educating now are writing stories about how to get to zero waste with arguments inside their houses, about what goes into what colored bin. So zero waste is a personal passion for me, having been a past director of Public Works. I used to pick up other peoples’ waste. So it’s now–so it’s now something we can take on not only at a city level, an international level. Literally, our West Coast cities, by accomplishing a goal of zero waste, can be educators around the entire world. KITTY PIERCY, MAYOR OF EUGENE: When cities work together their voices get stronger and stronger, and as they’ve reflected, even the Pope noticed, right. So I’ll talk a little bit here about Eugene. Eugene has made a strong commitment to addressing climate change, taking a bold step to be one of the first U.S. cities to officially adopt its emission reduction goals into city code. And the reason we did that is because elected officials come and go. But commitment to how we’re going to be as a city has to go on. We wanted to embed it in the fabric of our community for today and for the future. HALES: These issues of housing affordability and homelessness and climate are real crises. They are urgent and they are upon us. And all of us feel that. We feel the pain of our residents who struggle to afford housing and stay in our communities. We see the tragedy of homelessness on our streets, and we see the evidence of climate change all around us. And yet, as Kitty said, there is real hope here, because we know how cities can lead. We are leading on these issues. We are making a difference. The progress we’ve demonstrated on the veterans’ challenge in homelessness is evidence that cities with effective partnerships with other governments can really make change, and with community support. Likewise on climate. These cities are leading on climate. That’s why the Pope got it right when he looked at us and said, [you are all] leaders. And in fact, the the C40 cities have already made a measurable difference in greenhouse gas reduction. So we eagerly await the results of the Paris conference. But we are already on the road towards the progress that the world must make. Cities are already moving quickly, and what you hear here today and what you’ll see in what we document from these discussions is that these cities are committed to moving aggressively and effectively to literally help change and save the world.