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ENVIRONMENT -
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Mayor Takes Kyoto Protocol to Local Level

Posted in the database on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005 @ 16:01:00 MST (2534 views)
by Tomas Alex Tizon    LA Times  

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SEATTLE -- One day last month in this normally sun-starved corner of the country, when the temperature reached into the 60s, residents donned shorts and acted as if summer had come early.

That bothered Mayor Greg Nickels -- not the shorts, but the warm weather.

The temperature hit the 60s again this month, and with mountain snow packs alarmingly low and scientists already predicting drought this summer, Nickels said he feared ``the profound changes'' associated with global warming had reached home.

Last week, on the day the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, Nickels announced he would lead a campaign to get U.S. cities to adopt the terms of the protocol, beginning with Seattle. He said his goal was to recruit 140 cities to match the 140 countries that signed the treaty. The mayors of 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis, have signed on.

The Kyoto Protocol, the first major international effort to reduce the industrial emissions that many scientists believe are creating a warmer climate, went into effect without the support of the world's biggest polluter. The United States, which produces about one-fourth of the world's heat-trapping exhaust, initially signed the treaty in 1997 but withdrew in 2001.

``I'm deeply disappointed that the U.S. is not part of the treaty,'' Nickels said.

``We want to show that a city -- and I hope it turns out to be many cities -- can act to meet the intent and spirit of the Kyoto Protocol,'' Nickels said. The goal would be to ``inspire our federal government to take the action it should have done years ago.''

Sarah Jaynes, a Seattle resident and board member of the nonpartisan King County Conservation Voters, said she believed Nickels was genuinely concerned about global warming but also was being an astute politician.

Nickels, a first-term mayor, is running for re-election later this year.

``Seattle voters are extraordinarily concerned about environmental protection, and Mayor Nickels wants to demonstrate a strong environmental ethic,'' Jaynes said. ``This is one way he can do it. As a politician, it can only help him.''

Nickels says he plans to introduce a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June to set up the coalition, dubbed ``the Green Team.'' The details are being worked out, but, in essence, cities wanting to join the team must agree to steps that would lower so-called greenhouse gas emissions.

``We can't wait for this vacuum of leadership to fill,'' said Peter Clavelle, the mayor of Burlington, Vt., who has joined Nickels' Green Team.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said it was imperative that cities take the lead on the issue, and he hoped county and state governments would follow suit. The world must ``reverse the trend toward global warming,'' Anderson said. ``If we do not, the consequences will be devastating.''

Seattle adopted the Kyoto Protocol four years ago.

Now that it's in effect, Nickels says he will work to pass a ``clean-car'' bill requiring more stringent emission standards for cars sold in Washington, similar to a law adopted in California. He has directed city departments to reduce paper use 30 percent by 2006.



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