By GREG NICKELS
Today, the leaders of the world's eight most prosperous nations will gather in Scotland to talk about one of the most important challenges facing the international community: global warming. With 141 countries committed to the goals of the Kyoto Treaty, the G8 Summit is an opportunity for these world leaders to focus on this urgent problem.
In the United States, cities across the country are taking up this cause. Alongside giants of the private sector, such as the CEOs of General Electric and Cinergy, a movement to address global warming is building.
And why? Because the effects of global warming are being felt everywhere. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, recent declines in mountain snow pack are affecting the water supply and the ability to get hydroelectric power. In response to this and other worrying signs, Seattle has enacted a number of reforms to reduce its greenhouse gases.
As a government, we've reduced emissions from city operations by about 60 percent from 1990 levels. We've evaluated our effect on global warming, converted most of our fleet to hybrid electric cars, and instituted high efficiency standards for buildings. Seattle City Light, which provides electricity to more than 360,000 homes and businesses, is meeting its commitment of zero net greenhouse gas emissions. And in order to take these successes beyond city government, I've established a Green Ribbon Commission to make community-wide recommendations.
But Seattle is not the only city concerned with climate change. This past February, I began organizing other mayors to join me in addressing global warming in their own cities. The "U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement" has been signed by 167 mayors and is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
In a unanimous vote, the conference passed a resolution supporting the agreement and called for "Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation that includes clear timetables and emissions limits."
Greenhouse gas emissions
Progress is being made at the federal level. For the first time, the U.S. Senate -- in a resolution that passed 54-43 -- acknowledged the need to set mandatory limits on our nation's greenhouse gas emissions. If Congress continues to move forward on climate change, it will do so with national support.
Sponsored by the nonprofit coalition Clear the Air, a national survey found that three out of four U.S. electric utility customers are concerned about global warming. In contrast, only about one in 10 of those polled said they were not worried about climate change. In fact, more than 75 percent of those polled want Congress to require reductions in global warming pollution.
The business community is also starting to hear the concerns of the public and see the opportunities for innovation. A growing number of corporations, including retail chains like Starbucks and energy providers like Cinergy and Duke Energy, recognize the threat of global warming. They are cutting their own emissions and demanding federal action to encourage others to do the same.
What they and other companies are learning is that the demand for energy efficiency and renewable energy is a job-creator, not a job-killer. Necessity, as it always has, is inspiring us to new levels of technological invention. These technologies could be the economic engine of tomorrow, bringing valuable new jobs to communities across the United States and the world.
Quality of life
In Seattle, I've seen firsthand how facing the challenge of climate change is the right thing to do for the economy, the regional environment and the quality of life of residents. I know quite a few other mayors who would tell you the same.
As the G8 Summit begins, Americans from all walks of life will be watching: Watching to see if our leaders are ready to confront the effects of global warming, to provide new economic opportunities, and to provide a safer, cleaner future for coming generations.
X Greg Nickels is mayor of Seattle. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services