Assessing the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement: Highland Park, IL

It has been about eight years since Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels challenged his fellow mayors to sign the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which  would pledge each signatory to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their town by 7% of 1990 levels by 2012.

Photo: zol87 (Flickr)

While over 1000 mayors  signed the agreement, for most cities little is known about what was accomplished.  An article in today’s Chicago Tribune discusses the Chicago suburb of Highland Park–an affluent community on the shores of Lake Michigan north of the city–and its experience with the USMCPA .

The former mayor signed the agreement in 2005 and, according to a new city council member Kim Stone, nothing systematic was done to realize the emissions reduction.

In fact, the first step needed to understand a community’s emissions potential–a baseline emissions inventory–was never undertaken.  Stone chalks up the signing of the pledge as symbolic according to the article.

Having done some research on this topic of implementing climate action after signing the USMCPA, I can say that Highland Park’s experience is not atypical.  Many small municipalities simply don’t have the technical background or resources to conduct such an analysis.

This isn’t to say that the municipalities do nothing.  The article on Highland Park notes several measures relating to energy efficiency in buildings and vehicles that the city has implemented.

However, the advantage of a specific target is that progress can more easily be assessed.  As it stands Stone and the city staff are looking into ways to develop measurable changes.   It will be interesting to follow how they proceed.