President Trump parted from an international climate agreement, but what about Arizona?
For four mayors, they’ll always have Paris.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton signed onto a statement in response to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, emphasizing his commitment to meeting the goals set in the international agreement through sustainability initiatives in Phoenix.
The three other mayors to sign onto the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda statement, which was signed by 248 mayors from coast to coast, were Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
“It would be a lot easier for us to meet our goals under the Paris Accord with presidential leadership, but mayors across the country are not going to be afraid to lead if the president does what he’s done, which is step out of the way and abdicate that leadership role,” Stanton said.
Of the four Arizona cities, Phoenix has the most ambitious goals in terms of sustainability measures.
Stanton said he did not know the precise amount of such initiatives, but he insisted that no matter how costly they are, in the long-run, the city will save money and that the projected benefits of the projects will serve future generations.
Stanton said Phoenix is saving money on replacing streetlights with LED bulbs because they use less energy and cost less. And with solar, which he acknowledged is expensive to install, he said the city and its citizens ultimately benefit from the energy that is created.
Stanton listed a handful of the city’s sustainability goals, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025 and lowering the “carbon intensity of the current transportation system” by 80 percent. The city also has goals to divert 40 percent of waste by 2020, eventually becoming a “zero waste” city through participation in the “circular economy” by 2050 and to maintain a “clean and reliable” 100-year supply of water.
Some of the efforts the city has already made to reduce its carbon footprint are approving a $30 million project to replace nearly 100,000 streetlights with LED bulbs, giving the green light to a $31.5 billion transportation plan to increase public transit services, and triple light rail miles to 60. Phoenix also is opening a compost facility to divert organic materials from landfills as well as converting city vehicles, such as garbage trucks and buses, to run on alternative fuels or electric.
According to the city’s 2015 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Reduction Report, Phoenix met its reduction goal and, between 2005 and 2015, reduced emissions by 15.6 percent. The largest reduction in GHG emissions came from “increasing the efficiency of Phoenix landfill gas collection.”
Enthusiasm for energy efficient vehicles seems to be running low in Arizona over the last few years. A look at Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division license plate statistics shows an increase in registration of energy efficient vehicles, from 8,277 in June 2014 to 8,746 in June 2015, then a decrease to 7,825 in June 2016. Although, registrations for alternative fuel vehicles have steadily increased in recent years, from 12,114 in 2014, to 12,688 in 2015, to 13,463 in 2016.
Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord in June, fulfilling one of his campaign promises. In justifying the decision, Trump said he felt the agreement put the U.S. at a global financial and economic disadvantage, restricting the industrial potential of the country, particularly the coal industry.
“Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals.” Trump said in an announcement at the Rose Garden. “As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States – which it does – the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.”
Despite Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Accord, the U.S. will not be able to do so until the end of Trump’s current term, per the agreement. The accord is a non-binding list of carbon emission reduction goals by each participating nation, along with proposed plans on how to meet the goals – it is something several world leaders participating in the accord have made clear is not up for negotiation.