Join the fight against climate change

Published 7:47 pm Monday, August 20, 2007

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Last month, Greenville became the first of the Sierra Club’s ‘Cool Cities’ in eastern North Carolina. Washington, Chocowinity, Bath or any other community in Beaufort County could be the next.
Greenville received the ‘Cool City’ honor because it signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. It is a nonbinding document that commits cities to working toward a 7 percent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions levels from what they were in 1990 by 2012.
More than 600 cities across the country and 20 right here in North Carolina have made this pledge. Conservative mayors, liberal mayors and everyone in between on the political spectrum has joined the effort. It’s a truly bipartisan program. It is also an initiative that is appropriate for cities of all sizes. Communities participating in North Carolina range from Raleigh and its more than 300,000 residents to Highlands, which has fewer than 1,000.
What is so unique and special about the Cool Cities program is that while it brings cities across the state and the nation together toward a common goal, it leaves up to each individual community what actions to take to reach its target reductions. No two cities are the same; based on things like size, location, and financial situation they come up with the best initiatives tailored toward their community. It is a program that empowers localities and emphasizes innovation.
One of the most common things cities across the state are doing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions is cutting down on energy usage. This is both good for the environment and good for the taxpayer. One North Carolina school district hired a firm in 2002 to come and look at ways it could reduce its power bills. Now just five years later, it has already seen over a million dollars in cost savings from the recommendations that were made! Whether you believe in global warming or not, you have to agree that this kind of program is a good thing for the public.
Another thing many ‘Cool Cities’ are doing is increasing the fuel efficiency of their town vehicle fleets. For example, Greenville has purchased a Ford Escape hybrid for its fire department. In Gastonia, they have a ‘no idling’ policy for town vehicles and increase fuel efficiency by regularly checking to ensure that tires are inflated.
Other suggestions included in the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement for communities to consider are promoting tree planting, increasing recycling rates, and creating a broader level of public education about what folks can do to live in a more sustainable manner in their everyday lives.
These may seem like small things, and they are. But if every community does a lot of these small things as opportunities arise, then it will put a big dent in the problem of climate change. The folks in Washington, D.C. have not done a particularly good job on this issue, so it’s up to the folks in Washington, N.C. to do the things that will really make a big difference.
I’ve found as I’ve traveled the state for the Cool Cities program that the residents of the communities that have joined are extremely proud of the leadership their cities have shown. I encourage local governments in Beaufort County to sign onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and I urge the residents to show local officials their support for this program. It would be my pleasure to travel to the area later this year to honor local ‘Cool Cities.’
Greenville has provided tremendous leadership on this issue for eastern North Carolina, but it can’t accomplish that much on its own. I hope that other local communities will join it in the fight against climate change. The more cities that join, the better our future will be.