Charlie Hales is more convinced than ever that cities are leading the fight against climate change, and he plans to tell other West Coast mayors to make it a priority when they are in Portland this Thursday and Friday.
Change takes place in communities where people live, and more and more people are living in cities, says Hales.
His belief in the role of cities was reinforced when he participated in a climate summit with around 500 other mayors in Paris late last week. The summit was held in conjunction with the United Nations Climate Conference that is working to adopt a worldwide, legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by Friday.
I think the willingness of mayors to support reducing greenhouse gas emissions had an impact on the U.N. negotiators, Hales says. We are doing it by building transit, planting trees, and making buildings more efficient. They arent sacrifices they are making cities better places to live.
The Paris mayors meeting was hosted by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the worlds megacities committed to addressing climate change. It started in October 2005 when the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, convened representatives from 18 megacities to pursue action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.The group paid travel and other costs for Hales and a city staffer, and the mayor says it was an honor to represent Portland there.
Portland is not the biggest city in the group by far, but it has been a leader in fighting climate change. Portland was the first city to adopt a Climate Action Plan in 1993 when I was on the council, says Hales.
Climate change will be the subject of the second day of the Portland gathering that runs from Dec. 10 to 11 at City Hall. The first day will be devoted to homelessness and affordable housing, two issues Hales is also working on.
Participants will include Hales, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. They will be joined by experts in each topic area.
The first day will include round table discussions on homelessness and affordable housing with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The second day will include a panel discussion on fighting climate change at the City Club of Portland, featuring the mayors. Hales can be expected to share his experiences at the Paris summit there.
According to Hales office, the goal of the West Coast Mayors Summit is to exchange information and best practices, develop a joint federal agenda and identify action items on mutual issues.
Most the conference will take place at City Hall.