Kasim Reed says Atlanta will honor the Paris climate agreement. What will the city’s next leader do?

What the 2017 mayoral candidates are saying about Thursday’s controversial decision
Kasim Reed climate change Atlanta mayoral candidates

Photograph by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

President Donald Trump might have backed out of the landmark Paris climate agreement—but Atlanta and a growing number of U.S. cities have not. In a statement on Thursday, Mayor Kasim Reed said the city would honor the commitment he and the mayors of more than 100 other cities made—along with more than 169 countries—to lower carbon emissions in an attempt to stave off a projection of rising sea levels, brutal temperatures, and devastating storms.

“The President has made a disappointing decision today to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, and by extension, global leadership,” Reed said. “This decision isolates our country from international partners in shared, global efforts to curb climate change, and at its core is an assault on our future stability and prosperity.”

He’s sticking with the pledge, Reed said, and the city “will intensify our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, work to cool the planet by two degrees, ramp up clean energy solutions, and seek every opportunity to assert our leadership on this urgent issue.”

The mayors of New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and more than 60 other cities are saying much the same. The thinking being: if the federal government won’t take the lead on climate change, the cities and states must do what they can on the local level.

However, Reed’s second and final term in office ends in January, when he’ll turn over his desk to whomever emerges victorious from a crowded field of candidates. Here’s where some of the leading candidates running to replace Reed stand on Trump’s decision and what they would do, if elected, about climate change.

Peter Aman
We must act today if we are to preserve the Atlanta of tomorrow. As mayor, I will work to ensure every community in our city has access to clean water and air, renewable energy, and expanded transportation and housing options so all of our citizens can participate in Atlanta’s continued economic growth

Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms
I am equally angry and heartbroken that in just a few short months, policy decisions made by this president have negatively impacted the trajectory of generations. Clearly, the international implications are tremendous. Closer to home, however, we live in a city where thousands of children struggle to live with asthma, and I am saddened to think of what America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement will mean for them.

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves
Yesterday’s action by President Trump did not make America great. In fact, it not only disconnects us from the rest of the world, it makes us a follower instead being a leader.

When I am mayor of Atlanta, I will do everything in my power to ensure that we do our part to curb carbon emissions, so that future generations of Atlantans will have a healthy city in which to live and thrive.

State Sen. Vincent Fort
Trump’s decision emphasizes what I believed from the time he got elected: Whether it’s climate change, healthcare, or other issues, the change that’s going to be made is by progressives on the local level. What we do on the city level is going to be critical.

As mayor I would maintain the city’s commitment to the Paris agreement. It’s all the more critical in a city like Atlanta where income inequality is at a such a high level. Climate change impacts working-class and poor people and the elderly more than anyone else. It’s more critical that Atlanta be engaged in the climate justice movement. I’m going to maintain that commitment, heighten it, and broaden it and make sure the issues of class and race are dealt with in climate change efforts.

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall
The President’s wrong-headed decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement strengthens my resolve to do all in my power to help Atlanta reach our ambitious goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035. Over time, the clean energy program I have proposed will engage everybody in Atlanta by creating good jobs, lowering our utility bills, cleaning our air and water, and doing our part to mitigate climate change.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell
Leadership means making hard choices. It isn’t simply saying something that makes people clap at a rally. It is about deciding what is best for the people you serve, and for the planet we all share.

Today, Donald Trump abdicated his responsibility to his people and his planet. He made a decision based not on the science and studies of experts, but on the shouts and screams of his supporters.

President Trump may not wish to carry the mantle of responsibility to our planet, but we can still do our part. As city council president, and as your next mayor, I pledge today to pick up what he has dropped and make Atlanta do her part in the spirit of the Paris climate agreement.

Turning your back on the world is not leadership. Let’s show him what real leadership looks like.

We must redouble our efforts to protect the environment. That means recycling, that means alternative modes of transit, and that means protecting our tree canopy. These are all things that we, as Atlantans, can do, and they are things we will do if I am your mayor.

We can make Atlanta clean, green, safe, and thriving, we can do it together, and we can start today.

Cathy Woolard
When our federal government walks away from its responsibility to protect the environment for current and future generations, it’s a gut check. As city council president I started Atlanta’s first energy conservation program. As mayor I will build upon that work to ensure Atlanta participates with mayors all over the world to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We have a moral responsibility to ensure the excesses of our carbon-based economy don’t cause misery to the poorest of the poor and leave an irreversible legacy for our future generations to endure.

Councilwoman Mary Norwood and Michael Sterling have not yet responded to a request for comment. We will update if we hear back. 

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