Coming Together on Climate

Mayor Biskupski brought together mayors and councilmembers from nine other Utah communities this week to discuss what local government can do to address climate change.

The latest data about fossil fuel consumption and associated pollution is deeply troubling. For the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, the Earth hit a monthly average of 410 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere.

But we still have a window to act. That’s why it’s critical for local governments to drive policies that reduce energy consumption, catalyze renewable energy development, and transform our transportation sector.

In addition to creating our own plan, Climate Positive SLC, we need to work together to achieve the kind of change our planet and future requires.

That’s why the Mayor has taken leadership roles in a number of high-profile networks, including Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, Climate Mayors, and locally with Path to Positive Utah. She was also recently appointed to chair the Alliance for a Sustainable Future Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

It’s also important, as Utah’s capital city, for us to lead locally and share the expertise and experience we have with other cities and towns. We can and must be stronger together.

That was the intention behind this week’s meeting, which was co-hosted with the Salt Lake City chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. It garnered interest from mayors and councilmembers fromUtah cities and towns representing 750,000 residents which is 24 percent of the state’s total population.

Surprised? As we discussed in the meeting, climate attitudes are shifting and actions are following.

A 2017 survey of the Salt Lake City media market showed that 71 percent of respondents are concerned about climate change and 89 percent believe we have a moral responsibility to act.

We shouldn’t be surprised by growing interest in climate change. Utah is warming at twice the global average in recent decades.We’re seeing warmer winters, less snowpack, worsening summertime air quality, new disease vectors, and higher extreme temperatures—andthis is happening whether you’re in Salt Lake City, St. George, or Logan.

The meeting included an excellent presentation from Dr. Rob Davies on the basics of climate science, followed by a briefing from Dr. Yoram Bauman on one of the simplest, most impactful policy tools to reduce pollution—a price on carbon.

The premise is based on simple economics—taxing something we want less of, carbon pollution, and returning proceeds to households and taxpayers. Sending this basic price signal allows markets to function more efficiently and catalyzes U.S. innovation related to energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transportation. Making the policy “revenue neutral” ensures funds collected are returned to Americans and recirculated in our economy.

Salt Lake City passed a resolution in 2015 supporting federal legislation on carbon fee and dividend. Mayor Biskupski followed this up last year with a personal endorsementof the solution offered by Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Today, in 2018, this support is more important than ever. In fact, it’s critical to meeting local and global climate goals. That’s because, while it’s important for governments to “push” with sensible policies, it’s also essential to have the “pull” of market forces.

Utah is a conservative state, but we believe in innovation and collaboration. We believe in doing our part. We care about our families, our economy, and our future.

Salt Lake City is excited by the enthusiasm and support that many of our fellow communities have shown to tackle climate change with local solutions.

We also offer our support for others to follow our lead—whether that’s building Net Zero fire stations, adding solar to municipal buildings, reducing energy waste through benchmarking, investing in smart transportation, or supporting impactful federal policies like carbon fee and dividend.

We truly have a short window to #ActOnClimate so we’re taking it. Please join us in forging solutions that both work for Utah and respect the urgency this issue demands.

Contributed by Sophia Nicholas, Department of Sustainability

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