Axelrod signs on with Climate Mayors
As a professional geologist, West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod has long been concerned about the present and future effects of climate change.
So when he learned about the national Climate Mayors group from mayors Ted Wheeler of Portland and Mark Gamba of Milwaukie earlier this year, Axelrod wasted little time signing up.
The group, which was co-founded in 2014 by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, is a bipartisan network of more than 400 mayors — 13 from Oregon — who are committed to upholding the goals outlined in the United Nations Paris Agreement and "working together to demonstrate leadership on climate change through meaningful actions in their communities."
"There's kind of two parts — one is education and stuff that you can do more regionally," Axelrod said. "But it's also unifying mayors to influence global policy or national policy or international policy like the Paris Agreement."
The Paris Agreement was passed by 195 nations — including the United States — in 2015 and went into effect in November 2016. The primary goal of the agreement was to keep the global surface temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2100 — thus avoiding what would be considered catastrophic climate change. Specifically, the United States said it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement.
"Trump has basically abandoned the Paris Agreement, but the rest of the country is saying, 'No we're not abandoning the Paris Agreement,'" Axelrod said. "We're all committing to live by the Paris Agreement and to move forward those policies."
Mayors can join the group on their own accord and do not need approval from their fellow representatives, though Axelrod noted that he shared his decision to join with a number of colleagues and they were supportive.
Locally, Axelrod doesn't expect any major policy changes related to climate change.
"Our sustainability plan is pretty well-geared around and includes elements of reducing our carbon footprint," Axelrod said, adding that West Linn may still follow Lake Oswego's lead in developing a specific "climate action plan."
"Our Sustainability Advisory Board got ahold of (Lake Oswego's plan) and are looking at it," Axelrod said. "Many elements are already addressed in our sustainability plan."
Axelrod said he has also considered the possibility of citywide bans on Styrofoam and plastic bags.
At the state level, Axelrod plans to be a strong advocate on behalf of a cap-and-invest proposal for greenhouse gases that is expected to be front-and-center at the 2019 Oregon Legislature.
"It didn't get traction (this year) in the short session — there wasn't adequate time," he said.
Axelrod will also lobby fellow Oregon mayors who are, as he sees it, dragging their feet on climate change.
"I've heard some mayors say, 'We're just tiny Oregon, and what difference does it make?'" Axelrod said. "I think that's not a good attitude. We all need to take responsibility to the extent that we can reduce our own carbon footprint."
Learn more about Climate Mayors at http://climatemayors.org.