Albany Joins Worldwide Effort To Combat Climate Change

Dec 10, 2015

Credit WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

As world leaders meet in Paris at the UN Climate Change Conference, Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced that Albany has joined the global Compact of Mayors coalition.

Mayors from cities all over the globe have banded together, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making their municipalities more resilient to climate change and report their progress publicly.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan believes it's up to the world's cities to lead the fight against global warming.  "I think that mayors are uniquely positioned to be a strong voice on climate change, because we're dealing with the impacts of climate change in our cities. If you look at the challenges that we have with more intense rain, for example, that we've been seeing here in the city of Albany, it really impacts our ability to deal with floods, to deal with the types of emergencies that arise with severe weather changes. And so we think that it's really important that our voices are heard."

The Compact of Mayors was conceived by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. The two spoke Wednesday on the group's YouTube channel.  "Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty. Advancing economic growth. These are one and the same fight." "Back in September of 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Compact of Mayors with the United Nations. I have a saying 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. And that's one of the things that the compact does."

Mayor Sheehan says joining the compact reinforces Albany’s commitment to climate action by also taking stock of greenhouse emissions and the current effects of climate change in Albany.  "There is work that we are doing, but this is a global problem and we need world leaders to step up and recognize that there needs to be leadership at that global level if we're going to have an impact."

Mark Dunlea, co-chair of the 100% Renewable Now NY Campaign,  applauds Sheehan's decision.   "We need action at all levels of government, particularly starting at the local level. We hope that the city of Albany will commit to going to 100 percent clean energy for all its energy usage as soon as possible. That could also include the promotion of community choice aggregation to allow residents and local businesses to collectively purchase energy together, both to lower costs and to reduce its carbon footprint."

For her part, Mayor Sheehan hopes that the decision by Albany and 400 other local and international cities to join the Compact, including Rochester and New York City, will convince other cities to join, creating an urban groundswell that will lead the movement to combat climate change.   "We are a climate smart city. We recently hired an energy manager through funds that were provided to us by the New York State Power Authority. We're committed not only to making the city operations greener, but the focus is on making the entire city greener and understanding how we can make changes to our building codes, for example, that will provide for green infrastructure."

Bloomberg says when cities cut their emissions, they help their residents live longer, healthier lives. When they improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, they save their taxpayers money. When they invest in modern low-carbon infrastructure, they raise their residents’ standard of living.

Dunlea says Sheehan is positioning Albany to benefit the future of its residents.  "We look forward to seeing the city of Albany's changes to its building codes to promote net-zero carbon emissions in its new buildings and also a program to energy retrofit existing buildings. Certainly also look forward to increased funding to expand their mass-transit program starting with the city buses."

Joining The Compact of Mayors complements the Albany 2030 Plan, a highly-touted framework for Albany’s future that emphasizes transportation enhancements and bicycle-friendly streets to further reduce emissions and turn the city greener.

About the Compact of Mayors 

The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of mayors and city officials pledging to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and to track their progress transparently. The Compact was launched in September of 2014 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael R. Bloomberg. The Compact was activated under the leadership of the global city networks—C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)—and with support from UN-Habitat, the UN’s lead agency on urban issues. In the lead-up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the unity and ambition among cities through the Compact of Mayors will inspire world leaders to follow suit and forge a global climate deal in Paris.