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Toledo mayor pledges to uphold Paris climate deal

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    Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson pledged to fulfill the United States’ obligations under the Paris climate accord, joining hundreds of mayors nationwide.

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Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson pledged to fulfill the United States’ obligations under the Paris climate accord, joining hundreds of mayors nationwide who have vowed to uphold the agreement since President Trump withdrew from it.

“All of us have a part in addressing the issue of climate change and those factors that are adverse to our climate,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson told The Blade on Friday. “I do things not just for symbolism but also to show that it’s about commitment and true action.”

This week, Ms. Hicks-Hudson signed a petition sponsored by Climate Mayors, a coalition of mayors committed to combating global warming, that promises greater investment in renewable energy and cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. In Ohio, the mayors of Bexley, Cleveland, Columbus, Gambier, and Lakewood also have signed the pledge, which has a total of 285 signatures from mayors across the country.

The pledge does not oblige Toledo to pursue any specific policies. However, city spokesman Janet Schroeder said the city has already taken steps to combat climate change through things such as an environmentally conscious rainwater disposal system and investment in bike paths to encourage energy-efficient transportation.

“This has all relatively quickly come upon us, and it’s really good policy to be energy efficient and to be environmentally responsible,” Ms. Schroeder said. “The city has been trying to move in that direction for a bit.”

Ms. Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat, is not the only local mayor to have responded to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord.

Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards, a Republican, joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement on Thursday, which is different from what Ms. Hicks-Hudson signed. That pact promises to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol.

Lydia Mihalik, the Republican mayor of Findlay, said she has not decided whether to sign a petition affirming her city’s commitment to the Paris accord.

“We haven’t evaluated what those options are, but we’ll be looking into them into the future as long as they are business friendly and promote positive quality of life in Findlay,” Ms. Mihalik told The Blade.

In the last few years, Toledo has “seen some of the worst impacts” of climate change, said Sam Gerard, an organizer for the advocacy group Environment Ohio. In the summer of 2014, the city’s water supply was contaminated by an algal toxin, leading to widespread panic, a do-not-drink advisory, and forcing Gov. John Kasich to declare a state of emergency.

“Having Toledo be one of the more vocal cities is of critical importance,” Mr. Gerard said. “It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but in a real sense these are the people who are affected first and need to speak the loudest.”

The 2014 water crisis raised concerns about the condition of Lake Erie, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the United States. And the algae contaminating the lake was partly a result of climate change, said Andy Jorgensen, a recently retired environmental science professor at the University of Toledo.

“Algae grows better in warm water, and algae is at the top of our concerns for living in Toledo,” Mr. Jorgensen said.

Former Toledo Councilman Frank Szollosi, who now works at the National Wildlife Federation, said Ms. Hicks-Hudson should encourage other cities in Ohio and around the world to stand behind the Paris accord. With 10 sister cities across Europe, Asia, and Africa, Toledo has the global reach to encourage climate-friendly policies thousands of miles away, Mr. Szollosi said.

“It’s a matter of leadership,” he said. “Those sister cities should be hearing from our community that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them on this globally significant issue.”

Ms. Hicks-Hudson’s comments on the Paris accord come as the mayor continues her campaign for re-election. Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, a Democrat who is also running for mayor, said Ms. Hicks-Hudson’s Paris statement will remain meaningless until she joins the legal battle to designate Lake Erie as an impaired watershed.

“Leadership requires action, not just empty words,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “We need to be about more than just signing a piece of paper. We need to be about taking bold action.”

Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski, the Republican candidate running against Ms. Hicks-Hudson, said that as mayor he would focus more on the streets and preventing lead poisoning than on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“My goal is to be paving our roads, and if that means we need to run the asphalt truck an extra hour or an extra week, I’m doing it,” he said.

Contact David Yaffe-Bellany at: dbellany@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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