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City and County Leaders React to President Obama's Historic Climate Plan

by Don Knapp Jun 24, 2013

Creative Commons: Barack Obama.

Today is probably the most significant day in recent memory for anyone who cares about action on climate change. Because significant federal action is finally imminent.

President Obama will deliver a speech at Georgetown University (June 25, 2013), outlining his President's Climate Action plan, which ICLEI USA and others have reviewed in advance. Below, leading local elected officials and ICLEI USA's MIchael Schmitz weigh in on the plan from a local government perspective. We'll add more statements from mayors as we receive them.

View the Climate Action Plan >> (pdf)

View the Fact Sheet >> (pdf)

Mayor Kevin Johnson, Sacramento CA
First Vice President, U.S. Conference of Mayors and Chair, Resilient Communities for America campaign:

  • “President Obama’s Climate Action Plan is welcome news to mayors, because our communities have been on the front lines of climate change and the new reality of extreme weather it has created.”
  • “Creating more prepared, resilient communities is a top national priority. The preparedness initiatives outlined by President Obama today are a great first step, and a strong complement to our own local efforts.”
  • “Last week more than 50 top mayors and county leaders pledged to work toward creating more prepared, resilient communities in the face of our extreme weather and energy challenges. President Obama's Climate Action Plan will strengthen and support this new leadership movement."
  • “The vision of economic opportunity President Obama laid out resonates strongly with local elected officials, because we’re already making it happen. In cities and regions across the country, we’re creating clean energy jobs and strengthening local economies. And as we scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency, we make our communities healthier and reduce our carbon footprint."
  • "Climate action is a win-win for America, and you only have to look to cities to understand that.”

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What Can Chinese Cities Teach Us About Sustainability?

by Don Knapp Apr 24, 2013

A view of Shanghai

Blogger: Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA Executive Director

This article originally appeared on Environmental Leader, following Michael's April 2013 trip to China with Gov. Brown's trade delegation. Chinese local government leaders expressed strong interest in ICLEI's tools and guidance, and the climate and energy policies of U.S. cities. ICLEI will work to help connect Chinese and U.S. cities to share best practices.


Take a tour of China’s fast-growing megacities and you’re likely to come away astonished. Those of us who joined Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s historic trade and investment delegation last week were struck by the sheer size and rapid scale of development in dozens of cities, from Beijing and Shanghai to Huangzhou and Guangzhou. But a closer look, past the infamous veil of air pollution, reveals a lesser-known reality with incredible potential: China’s vast efforts to build sustainable, low-carbon cities from the ground up and to massively retrofit existing ones.

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ICLEI Goes to China With Governor Brown’s Delegation

by Michael Schmitz Apr 07, 2013

Blogger: Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA Executive Director

When I was asked to join California Governor Jerry Brown’s delegation on a historic trade and investment mission to China, I jumped at the chance. ICLEI brings together city leaders from around the world, and this mission offers a remarkable opportunity to strengthen ties between U.S. and Chinese cities, especially since climate policy and energy investment will be major topics of discussion during the trip.

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ICLEI’s Federal Engagement to Champion Local Government Climate Action

by Don Knapp Feb 20, 2013

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.

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STRONG Act: Proposed Federal Legislation to Support Local Planning for Extreme Weather

by Don Knapp Dec 18, 2012

Proposed federal legislation announced today would support local planning to create more resilient communities in the face of increasing extreme weather events. The STRONG Act—Strengthening The Resilience of Our Nation on the Ground—was introduced this morning by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The bill has been endorsed by ICLEI USA's Policy Council of local elected officials. As this legislation develops, ICLEI will keep its local government members informed and engaged.

>> Bill Summary (pdf)

>> Section-by-Section Overview (pdf)

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Former World Leaders Sign Accord in Little Rock to Expand Climate Action Financing

by Don Knapp Dec 17, 2012

This week former heads of state, including President Bill Clinton, met in Little Rock, AR, for the Club de Madrid's annual conference, and signed a partnership intended to help direct what could amount to a major new influx of private investment toward sustainable technology and climate change solutions. ICLEI USA leadership attended the meeting and provided consultation throughout the process. North Little Rock Mayor and ICLEI USA Chair of the Board Patrick Henry Hays played a key role the event.

The Little Rock Accord is an action plan to help direct private sector finance, such as pensions, toward actions and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate resilience and sustainability. The Accord formalizes a partnership between the Club de Madrid, a non-profit organization composed of more than 90 democratic former heads of state from over 60 countries, and the P80 Foundation.

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The Tides They Are A-Changin’

by Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists Oct 14, 2012

Guest Blogger: Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists:

Even as all too many politicians continue to question the very existence of human-induced climate change, cities and counties in Florida and other coastal states are already struggling with the reality of sea level rise and are looking at billions of dollars in expenditures to deal with its impacts.

Today, more than 120 Floridians with expertise on sea level rise — scientists, engineers, city and county officials, and others — sent a letter to President Obama and Governor Romney, asking them to address sea level rise when they’re in Florida on October 22 for the final presidential debate in Boca Raton and to say what they would do to help Florida and other states deal with this very real threat.

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The Top Three Reasons Rio+20 Will Change the World

by Maggie Comstock, USGBC Apr 24, 2012

Dusk on Earth's Mesosphere

Vote for Maggie to be the official blogger for World Environment Day in Rio! Click “Vote Now” on the UNEP website below her picture or at the end of the blog and enter the security code. Please share with friends and colleagues! Voting ends April 30.


Though two months away, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development’s Earth Summit, better known as Rio+20, has already been labeled vital, momentous and historic. And while delegates, students and activists have yet to arrive in Brazil, we already know that Rio+20 has the potential to be a “big deal.”

Rio+20 logo smallerIt all begs the question, can the people engaging in Rio+20, in-person or remotely, really change the world?  My sage and inspiration for answering this question is Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Simply, Rio+20 is about being part of that thoughtful group committed to "getting it right" for future generations.  The outcome and commitments of the Conference will affect us all, from the farmer in Iowa to the IT specialist in India, and whether you attend the conference or not, your voice can and needs to be heard.

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After the COP17 Climate Talks: Time to Empower Cities

by Michael Schmitz, Interim Executive Director, ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA Dec 11, 2011

City Bicycle Road

Two things are clear in the wake of the COP17 international climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. First, time is not on our side in the fight against climate change. And second, the world needs to look beyond national governments for meaningful ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. The leadership of local governments—on display in Durban—takes on a new level of importance. 

Michael Schmitz 99x128 thumbCOP17 brought some welcome progress, but also grave concerns about whether national governments are moving fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. At the 11th hour of the final day in Durban, negotiators agreed to a wide-ranging deal that renews the Kyoto Protocol and sets in place a process for all countries, including major emitters like India, China, and the United States, to move toward a legally binding climate agreement by 2015, which would take effect in 2020.

Climate Action Can’t Wait

While many herald this as a significant step forward, the flipside is that again, nations punted the difficult work of setting greenhouse gas reduction targets and working to meet them. With each passing year that greenhouse gases spew into the atmosphere at alarming rates, it becomes more difficult to rein in climate change and keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which scientists say climate change could be “catastrophic” for our way of life.  We can’t wait until 2020 to meaningfully reduce emissions.

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Durban Outcomes: Nations Invest in Time, World Must Invest in Cities

by ICLEI Global Dec 11, 2011

COP17 delegates

As nations finally reached a deal at the UN Climate Summit, cities fear that the Durban Outcomes are insufficient to slow down the pace of global warming, nor foresee adequate resources for adaptation actions at the local level.

“The Durban Outcomes are a significant step forward to bring the deniers of the Kyoto Protocol back around the table and free countries of their hostage held by oil and coal lobbies. This is important to save our today, but too little and possibly too late to save our tomorrow. There is indeed a dangerous gap between now and 2020 which is the most critical period to ensure a global transition to low-emission, climate-resilient development.” says Gino van Begin, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability.

“It is now urgent and more than ever necessary to mobilize and support the ambitious climate actions of local governments who have been zooming past nations.” 

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