Southampton takes lead on global warming

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Call it peer pressure, but the Southampton Town Board has joined the mayors of 600 communities across the country in endorsing an agreement to become a “cool” city, or town.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is taking action to reduce global warming and pollution and the individual mayors on board have pledged to reduce the carbon footprint of their respective cities and towns. Their stated goal is to cut emissions to 7 percent below 1990 U.S. levels by 2012.

By joining up in what Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst said was a nationwide grassroots effort, the Town Board is not bound to conform to any objectives outlined in the agreement. Rather, it will serve as a set of goals. “It’s quite ambitious,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, “but it gives us something to strive for.”

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said the agreement among the mayors is the only one of its kind among U.S. officials. The mayors contend that their action will help compensate for what they say is a lack of action on the part of the federal government.

According to a press release from the conference, the compact is significant in that more than two-thirds of the American population currently lives in cities and that the consensus among the municipal leaders highlights the growing support across the country for “green” policies.

Along with reducing carbon emissions and pollution, the mayors are urging the federal government to speed up development of cleaner and more fuel efficient technologies using measures such as conservation, methane recovery, waste-to-energy, wind and solar, fuel cells and biofuels.

Specifically, the agreement urges the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to lessen greenhouse gases with clear timetables and emissions limits, and to meet or exceed targets set forth by the Kyoto Protocol—an international convention addressing the effects of climate change and global warming. In July 1997, the U.S. Senate, by a 95-0 margin, passed a measure stating that the Kyoto Treaty was not in the best interest of the United States due to the treaty’s exemption of developing nations, particularly China, one of the world’s largest polluters.

Neither former President Bill Clinton nor current President George W. Bush formally submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, both citing the exemption of developing nations and impacts on the U.S. economy as key reasons.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the initiative of the mayors provides cities and towns with a “local version” of the Kyoto Treaty. She added that it was a great step toward helping local communities make a difference in cleaning up the environment.

Both Ms. Graboski and Ms. Throne-Holst argued that the objectives set forth in the agreement were worthy goals for the town to achieve. Some of the benchmarks highlighted by the mayors include: preserving open space, promoting transportation alternatives such as bike trails and carpooling, mandating energy efficiency in building codes, practicing sustainable building practices, increasing the fuel efficiency of municipal vehicles and converting from diesel to bio-diesel, recovering wastewater treatment methane for energy production, increasing recycling rates, maintaining healthy forests and promoting tree planting to absorb carbon dioxide, and enhancing education and awareness on issues of global warming and climate change.

According to the resolution adopted by the Town Board, the United States—with less than 5 percent of the world’s population—is responsible for producing nearly 25 percent of the world’s pollution. Thirty other New York municipalities have already signed on to the agreement including New York City as well as Brookhaven, Hempstead and Southold towns.

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