Don’t look for Mid-Columbia mayors to join a growing movement to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement as the U.S. government moves to exit the agreement under President Donald Trump.
With a penstroke and a press release Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee committed the Evergreen state to the United States Climate Alliance. In joining the governors of New York and California, he placed the state firmly on the side of combating human-caused climate change.
Governors aren’t alone. In a related move, 173 (and counting) U.S. mayors representing 49 million Americans signed the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, aka Climate Mayors, pledging to uphold the principles of the Paris agreement at the municipal level.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler are among the signatories, as are the mayors of Olympia and Tacoma in Washington and of Hood River, Milwaukie and Eugene in Oregon.
The Tri-City Herald reached out to Mid-Columbia mayors to ask if any will join the list.
The mayors of Richland and Prosser said global climate policy is not the role of municipal government. The mayors of Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland were not available Friday.
This isn’t the first time American mayors have risen to support climate goals rejected by a sitting president.
It happened more than a decade ago, after then-President George W. Bush said the U.S. would not meet the goals of the Kyoto protocol, the predecessor for the Paris Climate Agreement, in 2001.
More than 1,000 U.S. mayors, including 34 in Washington, signed off on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a 2005 pledge to meet the Kyoto goals by 2012. No past or present Mid-Columbia mayors signed on.
In 2012, Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, a free market think tank, contacted Washington cities to ask how they were progressing.
“Two thirds of the cities said, ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Myers recalled Friday. The rest had not met their goals.
“So, replace the word ‘Kyoto’ with ‘Paris’ and the same grandstanding is occurring. That’s what it’s about,” he said.
So, replace the word ‘Kyoto’ with ‘Paris’ and the same grandstanding is occurring. That’s what it’s about.
Todd Myers, Washington Policy Center
Richland Mayor Bob Thompson, an attorney in private life, read the Paris agreement and agrees with President Trump that the U.S. got a bad deal, he said. The Paris agreement lacks benchmarks that would give it teeth.
He dismissed the Paris agreement and the rush to support it at the state and local level as political posturing.
“I’m not convinced government should pose in matters that don’t change anything and don’t do anything other than virtue signaling,” Thompson said.
Carbon taxes and other initiatives would disproportionately affect poorer residents, something cities have to keep in mind, he said.
“I’ll start worrying about climate change when the rich guys stop flying in their private jets,” he said.
I’ll start worrying about climate change when the rich guys stop flying in their private jets.
Richland Mayor Bob Thompson
Prosser Mayor Randy Taylor occupies the territory between climate skeptics and climate activists.
“I believe people who are saying the climate is not changing are not paying attention. And the people who are saying it’s because of us driving cars or whatever are not paying attention either,” he said.
Personal views aside, Taylor said it’s not government’s job to take sides. And it’s not the city’s role to reach beyond its own limits.
“Our role is to protect our citizens, run our city, and protect our assets,” he said.
Our role is to protect our citizens, run our city, and protect our assets.
Prosser Mayor Randy Taylor
Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council or TRIDEC, said it’s unlikely the board will take a position on climate change.
Generally, the business and economic development group is concerned about state rules and regulations that make it more expensive for business to operate here.
“I would be surprised if TRIDEC took a position,” he said.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federal Department of Energy facility, declined to comment on the state and municipal opposition to leaving the Paris agreement.
“Scientists tend to stick to the science,” said spokeswoman Susan Bauer.