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Former President Clinton Says Climate Action Offers New Economic Opportunity for Cities and the Nation
New Conference of Mayors/Clinton Foundation Partnership to Aid Mayors Efforts

By Kevin McCarty
November 19, 2007

Former President Clinton joined with more than 100 U.S. mayors, other Summit participants and guests November 1 to share his perspectives on the economic opportunities that cities and the nation can seize by committing to green energy and other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Clinton delivered his remarks before the Mayors Climate Protection Summit during an afternoon session held at the Seattle Performing Arts Center.

"It is in my view, for the United States, this is the greatest economic opportunity that we've had since we mobilized for World War II. And if we do it right, it will produce job gains and income gains substantially greater than those produced in the 1990s when I had the privilege to be president," Clinton said.

His lengthy remarks were measured, seeking to frame this broader national effort on climate protection as both necessary and extremely beneficial. "It is a godsend. It is not castor oil that we have to drink," Clinton said.

Clinton took on the central argument - harm to the U.S. economy - advanced by so many opponents of more aggressive U.S. and global efforts on climate protection. "If we can't do it here, they won't do it in Europe, they won't do it in Japan, and they won't do it anywhere unless we can prove that you don't have to become poorer to do it."

"We will not get a global agreement on climate change unless we can prove it's the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetime," he said. "This is an opportunity. It's not a burden." Expanding this message later in his remarks, Clinton said, "We can not expect them (other countries) to take a different course in a systematic way until we show global leadership and prove we can do it."

Mayors and Leadership

"The mayors have been on the forefront of implementing change and trying out new ideas for 75 years now, since the Depression when we needed a lot of new ideas," he said.

In his remarks, Clinton recognized each of the Conference's top leaders - Conference President Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, Conference Vice President Miami Mayor Manuel A. Diaz and Conference Advisory Board Chair Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran - for their efforts on climate protection and other work on issues before America's cities.

Clinton specifically praised the mayors for their leadership and efforts on climate protection. "It is increasingly encouraging to me, at a time when our national posture on climate change has been so out of wack with the science and the urgency of the program, that the mayors have been forging ahead."

He also urged mayors to keep working on the issue. "Everything you do counts, not only in reducing America's role as the biggest emitter but in proving to your counterparts around the world that we can do this and it makes economic sense."

After recounting his Foundation's work in Africa to develop agreements and purchasing consortia to reduce the costs of AIDS drugs, other prescription drugs, fertilizer and seed, Clinton said that this is a model that has to be applied to climate change to lower costs and accelerate the deployment of new green technologies. "This is what we have to do in your cities. You have to prove to people this is good business, this will create jobs, lower utility bills, act as an effective tax cut and free up electricity capacity so we don't have to build more coal-fired power plants and make matters worse."

Conference/Clinton Foundation Partnership

In his remarks, Clinton announced the details of the new partnership agreement between the Conference of Mayors and his Foundation's Climate Initiative, specifically the new purchasing consortia of the largest cities in the world and the more than 1,100 U.S. cities served by the Conference of Mayors. In addition, cities will be joining with large corporate purchasers, such as Wal-Mart, through the Clinton Foundation to assemble ever-larger purchases of green products, helping further reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of new technologies to the marketplace.

"Going forward, our partnership to create purchasing consortia for lower-cost green technologies will not be given to those 40 cities but it will be made available to every one of the 1,100 cities in the United States that are involved with The U.S. Conference of Mayors," Clinton said.

Clinton emphasized that the work of the Foundation with cities on climate protection draws upon the successful track record and purchasing model used in other areas. He said that we have to work to help companies shift to clean energy by converting "low-volume, high-margin businesses to very predictable high-volume, low margin businesses."

"When we collaborate with you on new technologies that can help the cities, we will go back to suppliers with aggregate purchasing orders that will be so much greater, we will get even lower prices and therefore accelerate the deployment of green technologies and create jobs in your cities. (The Conference of Mayors will be providing additional information to the mayors on the new Conference/Clinton Climate Initiative Partnership in the coming weeks.)