The Hippo


Jun 26, 2019








Mayors vs. climate change
Will Paris Agreement make a difference?

By Ryan Lessard

 Concord is the fifth city in New Hampshire to commit to achieving the goals of the international Paris climate accord to cut carbon emissions — an initiative that’s partly political messaging but is also attached to real action, says Rob Werner, a Concord City Councilor and the state director of the League of Conservation Voters of New Hampshire.

The move by Concord, Nashua, Portsmouth, Keene and Lebanon is part of a national push called Climate Mayors, which has signed on about 380 mayors as of Sept. 26. Werner said the mayors who have signed on nationwide make up a bipartisan mix. Werner said it’s in direct response to the Trump administration’s announced intent to pull the United States out of the accord.
“On the one hand, it’s a statement. On the other hand, it’s a statement that can be backed up by policy,” Werner said.
Communities don’t have to adhere to any specifically prescribed benchmark, but in order to officially commit to the accord, Werner said, they must create an action plan to meet the broadly defined goal of carbon reduction with specific steps.
“These mayors are making a commitment to plow ahead and make sure that their communities are sustainable and moving toward renewable energy sources,” Werner said.
This can mean projects like large-scale renewable energy generation, purchasing renewable energy credits and finding ways to make energy use more efficient. 
In the case of Concord, Werner said, the city already offsets about 90 percent of its municipal energy use with RECs from Midwest Wind Energy. And it may pursue a major solar array. An array that generates 1 to 2 megawatts of power would account for about 25 to 40 percent of the city’s electricity bill, Warner said.
Later this fall, Concord is planning to join a Sierra Club program called Ready for 100, which aims to move 100 percent of its energy use to renewable sources by 2050, he said, which will be a part of the city’s action plan.
Werner hopes to get a majority of the mayors in the state, of which there are 13, to sign on. He said he’s been in contact with the mayors of Rochester, Dover, Somersworth, Franklin and Claremont.
But even if every city in New Hampshire commits to reducing carbon emissions, how big a deal is that? After all, this is a planet-wide problem.
“I’m not quite sure how we compare our efforts here from a city of 40,000 versus a global goal. But the point is that it all helps,” Werner said.
He said it’s a global problem that can be addressed, little by little, at a local level. And the more cities that do this, the bigger the impact. It’s also in keeping with the format of the Paris accord, which is a bottom-up approach without legal mandates.
So far, all the New Hampshire mayors who have committed their cities to the accord are Democrats, Werner said, but he’s hoping that will change soon with some Republican mayors possibly getting on board.
Leadership in New Hampshire’s largest city has expressed no interest in joining the accord so far. In an emailed statement, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, a Republican,  pointed to some of his efforts to save the city money through energy efficiency programs, but did not directly address whether he would sign onto the Paris accords. 
Democrat Joyce Craig, who is running against Gatsas in the Nov. 7 election, has said she would sign on if elected.

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