WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Mayors, including Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, offered harsh criticism Friday of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 195-nation Paris Climate Agreement.
Kautz, a Republican and former mayor's conference president, broke sharply from her party's standard-bearers, telling reporters on a conference call that the country has an obligation to "protect the planet for our children."
Kautz touted her city's greenhouse gas reduction efforts and those of other municipalities as an example of how America's mayors will pick up the slack for what she considered Trump's environmental shortsightedness.
"We will exceed the Paris agreement in cities," Kautz said of the collective effort of the nation's metropolitan areas.
The engagement of the 1,400-member mayor's conference came on the heels of dozens of CEOs criticizing the White House for backing away from an international agreement to reduce global warming by limiting man-made greenhouse gases.
Democratic Mayors Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans and Greg Stanton of Phoenix joined Kautz and fellow Republican Jim Brainard of Carmel, Ind., on the media call. Landrieu and Stanton each stressed the impact of climate change on their constituents. Landrieu talked of floods and Stanton of droughts.
Kautz said a recent CEOs roundtable in Burnsville convinced her that local business leaders understand that controlling climate change is good for business.
With America's metropolitan areas accounting for 91 percent of gross domestic product, she said, the nation's cities will have "a good story" to tell about reducing global warming and the data to prove that it helps the economy as well as the environment.
During her tenure as president of the mayor's conference, Kautz said she talked up the need for climate control to counterparts in Europe and China.
Now, she and other mayors said, city leaders and private executives must fill a void left by Trump. Some mayors see Trump's withdrawal from the Paris pact as an empty promise to return the fossil fuel industry to its former prominence.
Whether he can do that remains to be seen. Stanton, the Phoenix mayor, conceded that without the president on board it will be "harder to meet" the goals of the Paris agreement.
Stanton said it was "frustrating" for the president to "sell out people in Arizona" to give "false hope to the people in coal country."
Jim Spencer • 202-662-7432