Durham County

Durham, Chapel Hill mayors commit to Paris agreement

William V. "Bill" Bell, candidate for mayor, Durham, NC
William V. "Bill" Bell, candidate for mayor, Durham, NC

Mayors from Durham, Chapel Hill and Charlotte are among 82 city and town leaders committing to upholding the Paris climate accord following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw U.S. participation.

As 82 mayors representing 39 million Americans, we will adopt, honor and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” says the statement on online publishing platform Medium. “We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the president wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.

“The world cannot wait –  and neither will we.”

Mayors from Winston-Salem and Asheville also signed the statement.

In 2006, the town of Chapel Hill and UNC-Chapel Hill became the first town-gown partners in the country to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050 with the Community Carbon Reduction (CRed) pledge.

In Durham, Mayor Bill Bell several years ago signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ climate-protection agreement.

Bell also agreed this week to sign letters to Trump and the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from mayors, governors, business and university leaders expressing concern about the withdrawal and promising a continued commitment to cut carbon in their own communities.

“To me it was just the right thing to do,” Bell said.

More important, Bell said, the city will continue to support the Durham City-County Sustainability Office and its work to protect and improve the local environment by providing guidance and resources to city and county employees, businesses and residents.

“Whether Durham signs onto (the letters) or not, in my opinion, it doesn’t make a big difference, as long as we continue our work to have a sustainable community and reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges