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Planet Main
In This Section
PDF January/February 2006
e-mail December 20, 2005
e-mail October 28, 2005


The Power of Many
How We Saved the Arctic Refuge (For Now)
Getting Somewhere on the Bridges to Nowhere
Cities Get Cool
Measuring Mercury
Fighting for the Valle Vidal
Building Trust
There's No Limit to Colorado's Power
Finding Common Ground
Trickle-Down Activism
‘Hey, I Can Do This’
I Can Smell for Miles and Miles
Building Environmental Community One Canyon at a Time
Paper to Pixels
Sierra Summit Soars
‘Why Live If You Don't Have Something to Struggle For?’
Expanding Excom
Club Charts Direction for Next Five Years
Big Easy to Beltway: ‘Where's the Beef?’
2005 Timeline
Faces of the Sierra Club


Hope Surfaces in Katrina's Wake
Snapshots from the Summit
Democracy Breaks Out
Rally for the Arctic
A Better Legacy
Thoroughbred Power Plant Blocked
John Swingle
Betsy Bennett
Larry Fahn
Is Your City a Cool City?
Endangered Species Act Endangered
Smithfield Shareholder Resolution
Owens Valley Victory
New Energy Bill Exploits Katrina
From the Editor: Wake of the Flood
Search for a Story
Back Issues

The Planet
Cities Get Cool

More than 180 U.S. mayors sign a pledge to cut global-warming pollution. The Sierra Club’s ‘Cool Cities’ tour turns talk into action.

by John Byrne Barry

Earlier this year, frustrated by the Bush administration’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocols and its inaction on global warming, and concerned about the unusually low snowpack in the nearby mountains that supplies his city with water and power, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels came up with the idea of challenging mayors across the country to take local action to combat global warming. He issued the challenge on February 16, the day the Kyoto Protocols went into effect in most of the world.

The Sierra Club’s “Cool Cities” tour stopped in 18 of the more than 180 cities that have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—Chicago, Schaumburg, and Carol Stream, Illinois; St. Louis, Springfield, and Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota;
Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Providence, Rhode Island; Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire; Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, North Carolina; and Virginia Beach and Alexandria, Virginia.

The idea took off. And it wasn’t just the usual suspects like the mayors of San Francisco and Madison who heeded the call. By December 8, 192 cities had signed onto the “U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,” pledging to reduce their global-warming pollution to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Sierra Club global-warming organizers Glen Brand and Brendan Bell dubbed these “Cool Cities,” and launched a tour to encourage their forward-thinking mayors to put into place local innovative energy solutions—like improving energy efficiency of municipal buildings, greening city fleets with cleaner cars, and investing in renewable energy like wind and solar.

The tour kicked off in Chicago on October 12, where Club organizer Colleen Sarna lauded Mayor Richard Daley, who said signing onto the agreement allowed mayors “the chance to lead by example.”
Once the tour started, more mayors wanted to follow that example. Jill Miller, a Club organizer in St. Louis, says that when the St. Louis mayor’s office realized there would be a media event thanking other mayors who had already signed on, they pulled out all the stops to have Mayor Francis Slay sign the agreement in time.

Miller started by approaching 25 cities in the metro area, and Maplewood and University City signed on over the summer. “The city of St. Louis was the big fish, and it took time. Mayor Slay wanted to do his homework first.”

You Are Now Certifiably 'Cool': Sierra Club organizer Jill Miller, in red shirt, and Erin Noble, organizer for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, present a certificate to University City Mayor Joseph Adams thanking him for signing onto the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Initiative.

Miller worked with several community partners, including the St. Louis Community Air Project, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. The Community Air Project coordinator had good ties with the St. Louis mayor’s office, says Miller, so she set up a meeting with someone on the mayor’s staff, and brought along 80 personal letters to the mayor that had been signed at tabling events that fall.

Miller says those letter-writers were thrilled at the result. One of the letter-writers told her, “Wow, the letter I sent wasn’t in vain.” Another said, “I never actually thought this would make any difference.” And the following week, another mayor, from Florissant, north of St. Louis, signed the agreement as well.

The Cool Cities tour visited 20 cities in the Midwest, Southeast, and New England. Local Club activists have responded enthusiastically to the campaign, and groups in Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nebraska, Michigan, and Georgia are planning their own Cool Cities campaigns in 2006.

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