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June 23, 2014

U.S. mayors to fight climate change

HOUSTON — Mayors from the GOP-dominated states of Texas and Arizona are calling on cities to use nature to fight the impacts of climate change, even while Republican governors and lawmakers repeatedly question the science that shows human-caused pollution contributes to global warming.

As conservative governors criticize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the mayors — many from cities already struggling with climate-change effects — are taking steps and spending money to stem the damage.

Attendees of the U.S. Conference of Mayors will vote Monday on a resolution that encourages cities to use natural solutions to “protect freshwater supplies, defend the nation’s coastlines, maintain a healthy tree cover and protect air quality,” sometimes by partnering with nonprofit organizations.

It’s being backed by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton — all Democrats.

Since the conference is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and the resolution only “encourages” steps rather than mandating action, Leffingwell believes it will easily be approved Monday since it quickly passed through the committee on Friday.

“The best strategy is not to get involved in partisan politics,” said Leffingwell, who noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be a climate-change skeptic, but he still supported the state’s move to invest $2 billion in water infrastructure after a debilitating drought in 2011.

“He doesn’t have to acknowledge climate change to know that the facts are there. ... We want to take the steps that would advance the things that we all believe in without getting into some ideological argument,” Leffingwell added.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told an audience of mayors on Sunday that they could turn the debate on climate change into a discussion about economics, public safety and health rather than strictly politics. Local action could also serve as an example to skeptical lawmakers at the state level, she argued.

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