“We Need to Act” – President Obama’s Clarion Call for Action on Climate Change

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Yesterday afternoon, President Obama gave a rousing speech that introduced his Administration’s Climate Action Plan, a speech that aimed to position the U.S. as a global leader on climate change. ”We want a global low-carbon economy,” he said.

While the global perspective is certainly an important one, local communities – cities, towns, and counties– indeed see and feel the greatest impacts of climate change.   At NLC, we see that efforts to support climate preparedness and community resiliency need to take place at the local level, and are pleased to note that the President also recognized the importance of support for local action. For example, he recognized that over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon emissions and stated that,  “Washington has to catch up to the rest of the country.”

President Obama went on to note that states and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. He highlighted the ongoing work in Miami Beach, Fla. to protect the city’s drinking water supply against saltwater intrusion (check out NLC’s recent webinar spotlighting Miami Beach’s leadership on sustainability issues), as well as New York City’s efforts to fortify 520 miles of coastline against frequent and costly storms.

In reviewing the Climate Action Plan in further detail, NLC recognizes that the President’s plan explicitly aims to support local efforts through the following actions:

  • Strengthening roads, bridges and shorelines as a means to protect homes and businesses from extreme weather events;
  • Using the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency to help improve local transportation options; lower transportation costs; and protect the environment through advanced transportation technologies;
  • Launching the Better Building Accelerators Program to help encourage states and localities to adopt policies to continue to reduce energy waste;
  • Creating a short-term taskforce of state, local and tribal leaders to convene and advise the federal government on ways to better support local preparedness efforts, including removing barriers to long-term investments; modernizing loan programs; and providing better tools and resources to local communities; and
  • Utilizing “Environmental Justice Progress Reports” to identify and work with those communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

At NLC, we recognize that local communities across the country are feeling the impacts of climate change.  We are focused on sharing local stories of climate action and providing local leaders with the tools to proactively show leadership on this issue, as cities are on the front lines of preparing for and responding to the impacts of extreme weather events and a changing climate.  We urge the federal government and President Obama to continue examining the ways in which they can provide local leaders with the necessary tools, resources and support on this critical issue.

As President Obama urged, America must lead the way on climate change. “Don’t fear the future, shape it,” he said. Within this framework, it is clear that cities lead, and will continue to lead.