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Cities' Efforts Underscored in Latest International Climate Report


Tuesday, April 12, 2022   

Cities' efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to the changing climate are highlighted in the latest United Nations report on climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report focused on the ways the world can reduce emissions today. The authors have pointed to the Race to Zero initiative, an effort of more than a thousand cities around the world to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Cheryl Selby, mayor of Olympia, said the goal is important and achievable, even for smaller cities such as Washington's state capital, which is focused on the issue.

"For a city our size, we definitely, I would say, punch above our weight on climate," Selby contended. "We're very aspirational and ambitious around our policies and not afraid to take some strong positions and take some risks."

Selby pointed out Olympia has been working on climate resiliency with its Sea-Level Rise Response Plan. She noted the city is at greater risk of flooding as the planet warms since it sits at sea level.

The organization ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA supports a coalition of cities in the Race to Zero. It published a report last year, which found cities and counties need to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by 63% by 2030 in order to stay on track for the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Angie Fyfe, executive director of the group, said the number can seem pretty daunting, especially with just eight years left until the end of the decade.

"We then started looking at the pathways to achieve that and realized that we don't have to invent new technology," Fyfe explained. "All of the technologies are already here. The policy instruments that need to be put in place, again, already exist and in many communities are already in place. So that was hopeful."

Selby is also hopeful local governments can get on the right track to reduce emissions.

"If smaller cities like ours can start to make an impact," Selby emphasized. "Then you have that multiplier effect spread out across your whole state, and you work together and share best practices and share the information, then there's a greater opportunity for us to make the planet inhabitable for our children."

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