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Energy Independence Task Force Develops Mayors' Post-Kyoto Agenda

By Debra DeHaney-Howard and Kevin McCarty
January 30, 2012

Carmel (IN) Mayor James Brainard and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, co-chairs of the Energy Independence and Jobs Task Force, presided at the January 19 session where mayors reviewed key national and local energy efficiency and climate issues and challenges.

In his remarks, Brainard recognized the work of his colleagues on energy efficiency and climate protection, noting that 1,058 mayors of cities representing 90 million people have signed the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement (MPCA). "This is an important discussion today as we work this year, the final year of the Kyoto Agreement and our own Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement," said Brainard.

"The Conference's work on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) was the centerpiece of the Conference's strategy to engage the federal government in support of our local initiatives on climate, aligned with the goals and timetable of the Kyoto Agreement," he said. Brainard noted planned assessments by the task force on how EECBG funds and the MPCA have helped reduce energy use and climate emissions, and then he challenged task force members to help design next steps for the Conference and mayors in advancing local climate protection and energy goals.

"For some time, mayors have been defined by their national and even global leadership, on energy and climate protection," said Finch. "It is now an accepted view that any success in addressing climate issues must be locally-led and locally-executed, with mayors at the forefront of these efforts," he added. Echoing Brainard's statement, Finch noted how the task force session was part of the process to consider next steps for mayors on climate and energy initiatives.

CEQ Chair, Other Speakers Tout Value of Local Leadership

Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council for Environmental Quality, John Jimison, Managing Director of the Energy Future Coalition, and Chris Miller, CEO and President of the Piedmont Environmental Council, joined with the mayors to share their perspectives on next steps for local strategies as local leaders move beyond the December 31 deadline for achieving Kyoto emission reduction goals.

Sutley reviewed initiatives led by her agency, discussing the Administration's leadership on clean energy standards, green climate fund and green infrastructure, and climate adaptation. "Cities are on the frontline in dealing with and adapting to the changing climate," she said.

She also pointed out the Administration's historic commitments to energy efficiency and renewable energy, citing first-time funding for the EECBG program and a $90 billion total investment in clean energy as part of the economic recovery package.

"The Administration continues to work with local and state government in reducing our vulnerabilities and helping make them more resilient in addressing climate change," Sutley said.

Jimison, who previously served as senior legislative counsel to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee where he helped draft the EECBG law, told the mayors, "Energy efficiency is the largest, cheapest, cleanest and fastest way of dealing with energy." Challenging mayors to be strong champions of energy efficiency, he explained that concerns about energy supply always dominate the national agenda. "We need to balance the policies between energy supply and energy demand," adding that the energy demand side is "where we can make a big difference in our energy savings and mayors can speak for the demand side."

Miller, whose organization has been a leader in implementing local conservation and efficiency initiatives, suggested there are larger dimensions to local decisions on energy efficiency and future energy use in cities and local areas. "Today we have flat demand for electricity and other energy," he said, explaining this question is about "where we invest our resources over the next five years on energy and climate."

Arguing the nation runs the risk of over-investing, Miller said, "We can either invest at the local level where the untapped efficiency potential of local markets is vast, or we can continue doing the same thing, building more infrastructure than is needed at additional cost." He explained that if we expand energy efficiency and distributed generation, "the choices on future infrastructure, including new plants and transmission facilities, become more moderate and less costly."