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Great Lakes mayors support efforts to address climate change

Support for continued efforts to address climate change is expanding among Great Lakes mayors in the aftermath of President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the world’s most comprehensive attempt to address climate change.

The Chicago-based Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative announced at its annual conference today in Montreal it is pushing forward with efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the eight-state, two-province region that provides drinking water to 30 million Americans and 10 million Canadians. The Great Lakes also hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

“While the President of the United States has bowed out of the Paris Agreement, we are stepping up as cities to lead the charge against climate change,” Niagara Falls, N.Y. Mayor Paul Dyster, the group’s newly appointed chair, said.

Last week, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson vowed to do her part to fulfill U.S. obligations in her city, joining a national effort by a group called Climate Mayors, a coalition of mayors across the United States committed to fighting climate change. Ms. Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat, is one of at least 285 mayors to make that commitment in response to Mr. Trump’s decision.

RELATED: Toledo mayor pledges to uphold Paris climate deal

Also last week, Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards, a Republican, joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also has recently issued an executive order emphasizing that city’s commitments on climate matters.

On Tuesday, Lucas County commissioners said they have joined at least 1,219 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and universities from across the United States that have pledged to continue moving forward with climate change programs. The open letter they signed, in response to Mr. Trump’s withdraw from the Paris Agreement, includes leaders from 125 cities and counties, nine states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities - a block they claimed represents 120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy.

“Retreating from climate action hurts our economy, our environment and our public health,” Lucas County Commission President Pete Gerken said, citing Fiat-Chrysler’s $2 billion investment in Jeep factories and sales by Perrysburg Township’s First Solar as local private sector efforts to help reduce greenhouse gases.

The United Nations-sponsored effort that Mr. Trump withdrew America from involves 195 countries. It gave them the flexibility to set their own goals, yet Mr. Trump claimed it was too onerous. That has sparked a worldwide reaction among government, environmental, industry, and business trade groups.

Also at the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative meeting, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, the group’s outgoing chair, implored U.S. communities to keep fighting for the $300 million-a-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that Mr. Trump wants to eliminate next year. Mr. Trump earlier tried to eliminate it for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year budget, but was rebuffed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress.

“This has been a very busy year,” Mayor Coderre said. “We are concerned for the future because such a decision would affect us all, from the port of Montreal to the waterfront restaurant in Windsor to the sport fisherman on Lake Superior.”

Mayors in that group also said they will press the Canadian government to develop a more comprehensive strategy for Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River funding. 

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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