Louisville is known for fast horses. Bourbon. Basketball. And for what Kermit the Frog used to say: It’s not easy being green. James Bruggers/Wochit
Mayor Greg Fischer has deepened his commitment to keep Louisville in the fight against global warming by joining more than 50 other mayors who have agreed to specific reductions in heat-trapping pollution for their cities.
This new “Chicago Charter” commits each city to reducing its greenhouse gases 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Louisville will now get a customized plan on how it intends to meet that goal, which was part of the United States’ commitment to some 190 nations under the 2016 Paris Agreement. President Donald Trump has rejected that agreement as damaging to the economy and ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ditch a plan to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases from power plants.
While Louisville’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has praised Trump for ending a “war on coal” to boost Kentucky’s economy, Fischer has now signed his fourth climate-related pact in five years. He has said he sees environmental protection and the economy as going hand-in-hand and has tasked his Office of Sustainability with tracking green efforts in areas ranging from transportation to tree planting to solid waste management and recycling.
“I was proud to join community leaders from around the country to affirm that Louisville remains strongly committed to creating a green, more sustainable and resilient community,” he said of joining the Chicago Charter.
City officials did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
“We’re all going to get to the same destination in our own individual way,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who hosting a climate summit this week, told USA TODAY. “It’s designed in such a way that it’s measurable.”
Environmental engineer Sarah Lynn Cunningham with the Lousiville Climate Action Network gave the mayor kudos for making another climate pledge. But she also expressed frustration with what she described as the city’s slow progress.
For example, she said Louisville needs to do to reduce motor vehicle traffic fueled by continued growth outside Louisville’s core.
“I just want to see him walk the walk in addition to talking the talk,” she added.
In April, Courier Journal gave the city under Fischer’s leadership a “C at best” in a citywide environmental report card, noting that by the mayor’s own standards, progress has been slow. Courier Journal assessed the mayor’s personal performance as a B, better than average, especially for this part of the country.
Vehicle miles travels have continued to rise despite a city goal of reversing that trend. The city’s Move Louisville transportation plan outlined 16 projects at a cost of $860 million with no funding.
The city has hired a consultant to conduct its second greenhouse gas inventory, an accounting of the pollution blamed by scientists for causing global warming. City officials said Thursday that the study will be made public soon.
Cunningham said she expects it will show improvement because LG&E converted one of its two power plants in Louisville from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas and because people have been making their homes more energy efficient, including the use of electricity-sipping, LED light bulbs.
But Cunningham said there is so much more that can be done. Meeting the Paris goal in Louisville “is very doable if we just chose to work at it,” she said.
Other climate agreements signed by Fischer:
- In 2013, Fischer has joined 44 other U.S. mayors in a Resilient Communities for America Agreement, pledging to take climate change adaptation seriously. They agreed to protect their cities from increasing disasters fueled by climate changes, such as flooding and heat waves.
- In 2016, Louisville environmentalists cheered as Fischer agreed to sign on with The Compact of Mayors, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It established a global commitment by more than 400 cities to cut carbon emissions by 13 gigatons by 2050 through collective actions.
- And back in June, Fischer joined more than 150 mayors pledging Louisville to work toward meeting the clean-energy goals of the Paris climate agreement rejected Thursday by President Donald Trump.
Louisville may also be able to tap into millions of dollars of free services from some of the world’s leading companies or organizations as part of its participation in a network of 100 global cities trying to become more adaptable in the face of serious threats.
Study of water resources in 13 states in the Ohio River basin forecasts potentially devastating economic and environmental impacts with expected weather changes ahead, fueled by global warming. Severe droughts, for example, or more risk of major flooding. The changes are already underway, according to the Corps official who oversaw the study, and the time to start bracing for them is now. James Bruggers/Louisville Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK