Mayors watch climate change locally

Seattle mayor Greg Nickels

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: We continue our coverage of the U.N. climate change conference. It's in its final day. And while nations still haven't agreed on cutting emissions, many cities are already taking action. There are 80 mayors in Copenhagen asking one another what's been working and not working. One of them is the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Seattle's Greg Nickels. Mayor, welcome to our show.

Greg Nickels: Well thank you, good to be here.

Radke: I realize cities and towns produce most of the world's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. But without an agreement from the big nations, what good can 80 mayors do?

Nickels: Well first of all, we are insisting that they come to an agreement. We know that there will be significant compromise necessary to come to an agreement here in Copenhagen, and certainly that will be true in Congress over the next couple of months as they wrestle with the cap and trade issue. At the grassroots level, in the cities across America and across the world, we can make that general commitment into very specifics changes in behavior that will reduce our carbon emissions and deal with this problem more directly.

Radke: Can you give us an example of a mayor learning what has worked or what hasn't worked this week?

Nickels: Oh, I think that there are dozens of those. I had an opportunity just now to chat with the mayor of Mexico City, and what was interesting was that those things that we have tried are very similar to the things that they have tried. Different scale, but the politics of it and the need for us to act locally is identical in Mexico City and in Seattle. And at the surface level, you might not think that we would have much to share, but in fact we did.

Radke: No -- one land-locked, one on the sea.

Nickels: Mmhmm. But we deal with air and land and water, human activity that creates waste, and it takes the same kind of effort in very different environments to deal with that.

Radke: If no global agreement comes out of Copenhagen, how does that change what mayors like you do at home?

Nickels: Well, we would like to be able to focus at home, and so we would just as soon not have to come to Copenhagen and make our voice heard. We'd like to think that the community of nations would have come together around this common peril and found common ground. So if they fail to come to an agreement, we need to let them know we'll be back, we'll be back in even greater numbers, and our expectations will be undiminished. We will hold them to a very high standard.

Radke: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and he's attending the Climate Summit for Mayors in Copenhagen. Mayor Nickels, thank you.

Nickels: Thank you, Bill.

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