The Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis held its first public hearing on Wednesday, which featured five mayors of major U.S. cities who discussed how their communities are tackling climate change.
What We Know:
- The committee was formed by 10 Democratic senators and is chaired by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. The goal of the committee is to get as much preliminary work done for research and investigation so that Democrats can start passing climate legislation if they defeat Trump in the 2020 election.
- According to a press release from the committee, each mayor discussed what their city was doing to “cut carbon pollution and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.” This group of mayors include Kirk Cardwell (Honolulu, Hawaii), Melvin Carter (St. Paul, Minnesota), William Peduto (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Keisha Lance Bottoms (Atlanta, Georgia), and Ted Wheeler (Portland, Oregon).
- In 1993, Portland became one of the first cities in the United States to develop a climate action plan. Wheeler mentioned that Portland’s progress in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is what attracts people to the city. “We understand that aggressive climate action creates prosperous communities,” Wheeler said. “In Portland our population has exploded, our economy has continued to thrive, but we have been successful at reducing our carbon emissions.” As of 2017, Wheeler said, Portland had reduced its per-person carbon emissions by 38% since 1990.
- Cardwell noted in his testimony that Hawaii is taking steps to mitigate the climate crisis through a policy of “de-carbonization, resilience, and economic equity”. The state launched it’s Clean Energy Initiative over a decade ago with the goal of transforming all ground transportation to renewable fuel by 2045 and a renewable city fleet by 2035. The state also switched out all of its 53,000 streetlights with LEDs.
- Carter stated that St. Paul is “pursuing a unique opportunity to develop a sustainable, energy efficient demonstration neighborhood on a 122-acre site that once housed a Ford production plant.” The buildings will generate 80 percent fewer carbon emissions than the ones built in 2005 and mostly be powered, heated, and cooled with renewable energy.
- Pittsburgh has created a “100/50/0 emissions reduction” goal which Peduto is seeking to attain by 2030. The goals equate to “100% fossil fuel free fleet, 50% emissions reduction, and zero waste.”
- Bottoms was the only mayor of a Southern city and the only female mayor to offer testimony at the committee’s inaugural hearing. In her testimony, she mentioned Clean Energy Atlanta, the city’s “mitigation strategy and action-oriented plan,” as a major part of the city’s work to combat climate change. The plan includes efforts to help residents transition to clean energy use, and reduce municipal operations energy usage to 100 percent by 2035. “We are taking concrete steps as part of this plan to ensure that every Atlantan, no matter their zip code, is protected from the adverse effects of climate change” her testimony states.
Watch the full hearing below.