Atlanta's Mayor Calls on Businesses to Partner With Cities on Climate Action

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Kasim Reed spoke at the Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit in New York. Reed, who has been Atlanta’s mayor since 2010, has been a true leader in the battle against climate change at the scale of a major city. He gave a stirring rebuke against the pessimism and gloom that has been setting in recently among those who have taken up that fight, given recent actions at the federal level. “Seventy-five percent of US population and GDP already resides in metropolitan areas.” Groups like the 7,000-member Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate Policy can take decisive and meaningful actions. “If you want to change the world,” said Reed, “start with a city, then bring things up to scale.” He went on to say that for the most part, national governments are not working very efficiently on this problem, almost anywhere. Reed, who is Chairman of the Transportation and Communications Committee of the US Conference of Mayors, told the audience, “One of the reasons I decided I wanted us to make real progress on this issue, besides having a child and a family, is that I thought that we could produce a model that shows that anybody who wants to take decisive action on this issue, can make real change.”

Atlanta seems to have done that. Launching a large scale solar initiative, covering the rooftops of 28 municipal buildings. converting their waste collection fleet to CNG, cutting water consumption by 20% and more. Free to work cooperatively with their counterparts in other cities and with businesses, without competitive concerns or the need to protect intellectual property, cities can get things does quickly. “All that’s needed,” said Reed, “is me and eight votes.”

Reed then encouraged business leaders, many of whom were in the audience, to “shift to partnering with cities.” City leaders, he said, can effectively generate the will to act, but they need the “technical bench” that only businesses can provide, to get things done. Reaching out to the room, he said, “we need your help, we need your voice, we need your talent.” Reed spoke of a meeting in China where it was agreed that cities could achieve 35-40% greenhouse gas reductions without help from national governments.

Speaking of which, Reed was not shy about discussing the current political situation. “One of the reasons I think we’re getting beaten on messaging,” he said, “is not having a powerful and direct message that people instantly feel in their heart.” However, he went on to say, “the reason I think we’re making progress on climate in the manner that we are right now is that 1) there is someone at the national level who clearly has an alternative view that is wildly unhealthy for America and the world, 2) millennials care about the issue and are owning it, and 3) we’re having visits like we’re having today…all over the world, where people are deciding to do something.” Reed then went on to list the numerous accomplishment that his city has achieved, “with zero support from the state,” ranging from improving energy efficiency, being #1 in the Better Buildings Challenge, attracting new businesses and appointing a Chief Bicycle Officer. By and large those businesses located near stops on the MARTA transit system to facilitate efficient employee commuting.

“We need to take the energy around this moment and use it to encourage people to work harder as opposed to being cowed. I don’t think the Trump administration realizes that by taking the steps they are taking, which are so openly hostile towards reducing climate [change], they are galvanizing people who had been bickering over small things.

“When businesses lead,” says Reed, “it gets you away from that Democrat-Republican paradigm.” Meanwhile, “we will be the platform when the national government comes back to sanity.”