ITHACA, N.Y. — The Tompkins County Legislature may vote on a policy Tuesday evening, which commits the elected body to fighting climate change and standing in with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord five days ago, joining Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries to not join the climate change fighting initiative.
The Paris climate agreement allowed each county signed onto the agreement to set goals to “cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures — while also cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change,” National Public Radio reported.
Trump said he would make a better deal for the United States and said he remains committed to protecting the environment. He did not, however, state exactly how or when the deal would happen, nor did he provide details about what a better deal would mean.
Locally, the Tompkins County Legislator signed the 2020 Energy Strategy about seven years ago, which calls for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020. The legislature recently announced its ahead of those goals and that renewable energy generation in Tompkins County has increased by 136 percent since 2008.
Last month, the county was recognized by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for its effort to fight climate change.
The policy reads, in part, “President Donald Trump’s announcement seeking to withdraw the United States of America from the Paris Agreement undermines this critical global effort to confront one of the greatest challenges facing our community and communities all across the one planet we all share; and…the reality of climate change has not been affected by the President’s announcement; and the absence of federal leadership only increases the importance of local leadership in avoiding the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change.”
The draft policy being considered is as follows (Note: The Tompkins County Legislator meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of 121 E. Court St.):
WHEREAS, Tompkins County desires to protect and enhance quality of life for all those who live, work, learn and play in our community, as well as for our children and grandchildren; and
WHEREAS, there is scientific consensus on the reality of climate change and the recognition that human activity, especially the combustion of fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases, is an important driver of climate change; and
WHEREAS, climate change has been so widely recognized by government, business, and academic leaders as a worldwide threat with the potential to harm our economy, safety, public health, and quality of life, that 195 countries, including the United States, vowed to address climate change in agreements reached in Paris in December 2015 (the “Paris Agreement”); and
WHEREAS, we are already feeling the effects of climate change through increased temperatures, more extreme weather such as the 2015 flood event in Newfield that caused between $500,000 to $800,000 in estimated damage and the 2016 county-wide drought, and other disruptions that affect our residents, economy, and way of life; and
WHEREAS, climate change affects all residents and businesses, but communities that already face socioeconomic and health inequities are being most severely impacted, including youth, elders, people of color, and low-income communities, and such communities therefore require an investment in resilience that is proportionate to these more severe risks; and
WHEREAS, actions that reduce climate pollution also have potential to improve air quality, public health, energy security, social equity, our local natural environment, and quality of life for our residents, and can attract jobs and economic development opportunities and increase our long-term economic competitiveness and wealth; and
WHEREAS, Tompkins County has demonstrated a legacy of leadership against the threat of climate change, adopting its 2020 Energy Strategy with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, outlining steps the County has committed to taking to achieve that goal, and having already taken many important actions toward the goal; and
WHEREAS, we are joined in taking action on climate change by a global coalition of local, state, and national governments and community and private sector leaders – including more than eighty-six (86) mayors representing more than 40 million Americans – who recognize the importance and potential of these actions to protect and enhance the well-being of current and future generations, and who have signed a joint “Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders” (at http://wearestillin.com/); and
WHEREAS, President Donald Trump’s announcement seeking to withdraw the United States of America from the Paris Agreement undermines this critical global effort to confront one of the greatest challenges facing our community and communities all across the one planet we all share; and
WHEREAS, the reality of climate change has not been affected by the President's announcement; and the absence of federal leadership only increases the importance of local leadership in avoiding the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED that Tompkins County re-affirms its commitment to taking action to reduce climate pollution in alignment with our adopted goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, and continues to support the principles of the Paris Agreement and the participation of the United States of America as a party to the Paris Agreement; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED that Tompkins County will continue to stand with local and state governments and other public and private sector partners throughout the world to advance action in accordance with the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and hereby agrees to sign the “Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders” at http://wearestillin.com/.
Featured image from the Ithaca March for Science that happened on April 22. Photo by Alyvia Covert/The Ithaca Voice