ICLEI’s Federal Engagement to Champion Local Government Climate Actionby Don Knapp
ICLEI USA has kicked off 2013 with two busy months, engaging with federal leaders who have reached out to obtain our input on federal approaches to climate action and the role of local governments. ICLEI USA’s Executive Director, Michael Schmitz, has met several times with senior officials in the U.S. Department of State, including Under Secretary of State Robert B. Hormats. Schmitz has also led ICLEI’s response to a request for policy ideas from the Congressional Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change.
ICLEI is proud to act as the champion of cities and counties on climate change. Our mantra continues to be that local governments are leading the way on climate action, and that they must be further empowered to reduce GHG emissions and prepare their communities for climate impacts. In our latest federal engagement we’ve provided specific ideas and recommendations for how that can happen via federal agency action and local-federal collaborations. Read the details below.
Federal Agency Support for Local Climate Initiatives
In February the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) formally requested input from ICLEI USA as a key stakeholder organization. Specifically, they asked for ideas on how federal agencies, using existing authority, could reduce GHG emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts, as well as ideas on federal legislation.
ICLEI’s detailed responses focused on ways federal agencies could help support local governments, including:
- How federal agencies can help local governments obtain better data for decision-making on climate mitigation, including localized data on GHG emissions, energy, transportation, water consumption, and the water-energy nexus.
- The need for an online clearinghouse for climate data, to inform local decisions on climate adaptation and preparedness.
- The need for legislation that creates a dedicated revenue stream for local governments to build community resilience and upgrade infrastructure.
- Ongoing support for federal programs that support local governments with tools, resources, and trainings, such as EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program, and DOE’s SunShot Initiative and the Solar Outreach Partnership.
- Ways the FEMA can take a stronger leadership role in supporting communities on climate resilience.
- The need for FHFA to restore the ability of local governments to run residential PACE programs.
International Engagement and the State Department
Over the past several months, ICLEI has been invited to several meetings with senior State Department officials, interested in how they can support local governments and ICLEI’s mission. Michael Schmitz has met with Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change (recently appointed to be the Department of Energy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Policy and Technology) on how U.S. local governments can become more integrally involved in upcoming international climate change negotiations and proceedings. A February 2013 meeting with Under Secretary of State Robert B. Hormats continued the conversation on State Department support and collaboration on local climate initiatives. We’ll keep you updated as these conversations continue.
Looking Ahead: ICLEI’s Policy Council
ICLEI USA has recently created a Policy Council of local elected officials to offer leadership on policy issues affecting city, county and regional efforts to mitigate climate change and adapt to already changing conditions. The Policy Council has already engaged with Senator John Kerry and offered its support for the STRONG Act (Strengthening the Resiliency of Our Nation on the
Ground), introduced by Senators Kerry, Gillibrand, and Lautenberg in December 2012, as a significant step forward in adaptation efforts. The Policy Council will continue to engage federal decision makers to help represent the needs and priorities of local governments.