Cool Counties' Launch Major Global Warming Initiative

On July 16, large counties from across the country joined the Sierra Club in announcing the creation of the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, a new initiative to combat global warming.

The counties -- led by King County, Wash., Fairfax County, Va., and Nassau County, N.Y. -- pledge to reduce global warming emissions 80 percent by 2050, an achievable average annual reduction of 2 percent. The Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration also urges the federal government to adopt legislation requiring an 80-percent emissions reduction by 2050 and calls for fuel economy standards to be raised to 35 miles per gallon within a decade.

"I am proud to stand here with the Sierra Club and my fellow county officials to launch a powerful commitment to tackle the most important challenge of our generation," said Ron Sims, King County executive. "We no longer have time to waste. We know what it takes to reduce CO2 emissions in our regions and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to make the tough decisions and right investments now."

Sierra Club officials said that in the face of continuing inaction at the federal level concerning global warming and the U.S. addiction to oil, the organization has been working closely with cities, states and counties to implement policies that will help fight global warming, save consumers and taxpayers money, and encourage the use of clean, renewable energy. The Sierra Club's Cool Cities program encourages cities to sign on and implement the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, initiated by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in 2005. Nearly 600 cities have signed on to that agreement, 100 more than just a few months ago.

"The American public is clamoring for action to tackle global warming and fix our badly broken energy policy," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director. "While our leaders in Washington remain asleep at the wheel, cities, states and now counties are demonstrating extraordinary leadership as they come together to address these pressing national concerns. The county leaders joining us today understand the seriousness of the problems we face and are taking the kind of bold, visionary action that will protect both our climate and their own citizens."

In addition to the principles embodied in the Cool Counties Declaration itself-establishing a local greenhouse gas inventory and the target of an 80 percent reduction in global warming emissions by 2050, Fairfax County, working in conjunction with the Sierra Club, has produced a roadmap showing the kinds of concrete actions that counties can take to reduce their emissions. The roadmap lays out a template for reducing emissions through actions in seven key areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, greening county vehicle fleets, land use, transportation, water conservation and educational outreach.

The launch counties represent a diverse array of some of America's largest counties, including counties from every region in the country. More than 17,000,000 people across ten states live in the founding counties. The launch is merely the start of the Cool Counties campaign and the lead counties -- King, Fairfax, and Nassau -- and the Sierra Club will begin a major effort to add new counties to the initiative, as well as provide new and existing members information to assist them in developing their implementation plans.

As the number of cities signing the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement has grown to nearly 600 -- with over 200 local Sierra Club Cool Cities campaigns to match -- the needs of local activists have grown tremendously. In response, the Sierra Club will soon unveil a completely revamped and upgraded http://www.coolcities.us Web site. It will include a multitude of new features designed to help local activists engage with one another and make their Cool Cities campaigns more effective. The new Web site will be unveiled on July 26.

The Sierra Club also will unveil a new online tool for Cool Cities and Cool Counties to use in order to understand the benefits of greening their fleets. This comprehensive tool will allow fleet managers to understand the benefits in terms reduced emissions and dramatically decreased fuel costs offered by greening their fleets with hybrids and other efficient vehicles.

Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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