In June 2017, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced that the United States would be leaving the Paris climate accord, seeking a better deal for the country and more control over its own destiny.
As a result, hundreds of city leaders pledged to live up to the Paris agreement and signed on as members of the Climate Mayors, a bipartisan, peer-to-peer network of mayors working to demonstrate leadership on climate change.
The mayors, also known as the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, existed before President Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. It was formed in 2014 when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker and then-Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced its creation during a United Nations climate summit in New York City. Much of the group’s activities are coordinated out of Los Angeles, where the city’s sustainability office organizes and directs meetings and information sharing between members.
The coalition, which now boasts 405 members representing 70 million Americans, was one of the most visible in a growing list of coalitions and organizations seeking to demonstrate U.S. commitment to fighting climate change and lowering emissions. Along with We Are Still In (a group of corporations and civic leaders – the one we belong to), C40 (an international group of mayors united to enact progressive climate policy), Ready for 100 (a Sierra Club campaign pushing renewable power), and others, the Climate Mayors pushed back against the narrative that the U.S. is abandoning its commitments, and embodied the grassroots energy for change.
At Boston University’s Cities Initiative, executive director Katharine Lusk and research fellow Nicolas Gunkel recently co-authored a report, “Cities Joining Ranks,” studying these groups. The report looked at 15 different organizations, 10 focused on environmental issues and one each pertaining to immigrant inclusion, gun violence, violence involving men and boys of color, volunteering, and broadband access.
In addition to finding a leadership vacuum at the federal level, one of the most frequent arguments for starting such groups is that these coalitions also provide “strength in numbers. They view critical mass as being key to amplifying their voices to influence other levels of government,” says Lusk. “In other words, they stand together to influence others and signal their priorities rather than gain support for a specific policy.”
After the 2016 election, the coalition reached out to the then president-elect, writing a letter outlining the ways the group had worked with the previous administration, and asking to be a partner with the White House on fighting climate change.
To the best of our knowledge, there was no response.