Environment, News

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tells U.S. Congress: climate change ‘hits us at home’

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord made it even more important for U.S. cities to tackle climate change at the local level, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (pictured at left) testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Climate change “really hits us at home,” she said before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, where she testified about her city’s environmental sustainability efforts.

Those local actions became increasingly critical in light of the Trump’s decision to exit the landmark Paris agreement, she said.

“In Charlotte, when that happened, it just heightened our awareness and our need to move more aggressively towards our own plan and it is something that our citizens wanted us to do,” she said. “The impact of withdrawal made it actually more imperative at the local level for us to begin to do this work.”

The administration has long planned to exit the accord, but officially notified the international community earlier this month that it intends to withdraw. Critics of Trump’s move have called it short-sighted and warn that it will significantly hamper global efforts to combat climate change.

“American leadership, as in so many other areas, is absolutely essential, is not being provided, and the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, of course, is the most obvious indicator of that,” said former Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who also testified at Wednesday’s hearing.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced in 2017 that the state would join others in committing to reduce their share of the greenhouse gas emissions targets laid out in the Paris climate deal. In 2018, Cooper signed an executive order that calls on the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Lyle said in her testimony that Charlotte supports that executive order. The city also supports Duke Energy’s goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.

“Achieving a low-carbon future for Charlotte will require a transformational change in the way we consume and generate energy and how we manage our waste stream,” she said. We know that this will be challenging and require new and innovative ideas, research, projects and collaborations. It will require government agencies, companies and organizations to look at their role, as well as residents to look at how they are using energy each day.”

She also stressed the importance of addressing greenhouse gas emissions from cars in an area that grew with a great deal of sprawl.

“If I could wave a magic wand in our city, I would actually reduce the number of cars that we have because traffic congestion means greenhouse gases and it means that we will have bad air for all of our children and that creates public health issues,” she said.

Robin Bravender is the Washington bureau chief of the States Newsroom network, of which NC Policy Watch is a member.

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