Bob Perciasepe’s prepared remarks for the U.S. Conference of Mayors






JANUARY 22, 2015

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today about climate change and cities.

Although climate change is global, the impacts are local. In your city, maybe drought is affecting your water supply or you’re seeing more frequent flooding or you have to make roads and bridges stand up to more extreme temperatures and storms. You’re the ones who will have to deal with the impacts of climate change.

And in many case, you’re already in action on two fronts: building resilience to climate impacts and also reducing the emissions causing the problem.

A presidential task force has outlined more than $100 billion in needs for communities to protect against rising sea levels, combat rising temperatures, and improve drinking-water systems.

On resilience, some cities are already determining their risks and deciding how to address them. For example, Boston is adding climate resilience to its construction review process, and working with utilities on a regional microgrid. Tucson is earning a national reputation for its work to better understand how climate may affect the city’s water supply. And of course, New York City drafted a $20 billion-dollar plan to protect communities and critical infrastructure.

Cities are also taking the lead in reducing emissions. A new global Compact of Mayors, announced at the UN Climate Summit in New York, has committed to deep reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The mayors of Los Angeles, Houston, and Philadelphia have launched a Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda to set targets for emissions reductions.

At the June meeting of this organization, you renewed and expanded your Climate Protection Agreement, encouraging federal and state cooperation with mayors to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate energy efficiency efforts, among other things.

Last month, the White House named 16 local and tribal communities as Climate Action Champions for steps such as creating climate-smart building codes, installing green infrastructure, and setting targets to reduce energy use. If most big cities around the world pursued these kinds of policies aggressively, they could potentially cut emissions up to 8 gigatons by 2050

At C2ES, we take a pragmatic, nonpartisan approach to being a source of information and analysis, a bridge between diverse interests, and a catalyst of constructive business engagement. Through our Business Environmental Leadership Council, we work on climate and energy solutions with Fortune 500 companies that have operations in multiple states and cities.

C2ES has been working with the business community on resilience – determining the best practices and tools to help prepare for impacts like increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, drought, wildfires and downpours. We’ve found that most major companies see climate impacts as business risks, and some leading companies are developing tools and processes to assess and manage these risks.

Oftentimes, the risks cities and companies face are the same – loss of power and water services, flooding, damaged facilities, people unable to get to work, loss of revenue, and rising costs for insurance.

We at C2ES believe cities and businesses can learn a lot from one another. We see voluntary, public-private partnerships as a great way to bring together government and business expertise to improve resilience planning.

This is a pivotal year for advancing the climate effort both at home and internationally. Finalizing EPA’s plan to cut power plant emissions will put the US on track to permanently shrinking its carbon footprint, and help set the stage for a new global climate deal in Paris.

EPA expects to finalize its Clean Power Plan this summer. This organization expressed support for the draft proposal in June.  Some states are already starting to think about how they’ll implement it.

Thanks to the plan’s flexibility, we could see states choosing a variety of policies to reach the goals, including increasing energy efficiency, promoting renewables, using market-based approaches, or even joining together with other states.

Cities will play a key role in achieving a clean energy future. I encourage you to talk to your state legislators and educate them about your experiences.

One city, or one company, state or nation, can’t solve our climate and energy challenges overnight. We’re seeing – and we need to encourage — progress on multiple fronts.

We’re a nation of innovators. Unleashing that innovative spirit at the city and state level will create success stories. And those successes will point the way toward a future national strategy. Cities — working together with states and companies and sharing knowledge and ideas – have a key leadership role to play in our clean energy future.

If you’re not already in action, it’s time.