Thursday, June 26, 2008

Serve To Preserve Summit

This morning I delivered the keynote address at the second annual Serve To Preserve Summit convened by Governor Crist to address climate change issues - here's what I said:

Good morning and welcome to Miami – it is an honor to host all of you here.

Let me start by thanking Governor Charlie Crist and his work on bringing us all together for this second Serve to Preserve Summit.

Of all issues, he has been a leading voice among governors on climate change - and has brought leaders from the entire world together to work on solutions.

When I say that our state has a partnership with a national government, not surprisingly, it is not ours, but those of the U.K. and Germany, it is Governor Crist who struck those partnerships

He has the courage to go against many in his party, to stand for what he believes in; to stand for what is right for the people of this great state.

And he deserves great credit…for bringing this Summit to Miami; a city that you will soon see is on the front line in the fight against climate change.

In fact, just this Monday, we finished hosting the nation’s mayors in this very hotel for the Annual Meeting of the US Conference of Mayors – thanks to the Home Depot Foundation, it was the first ever “green conference” – from the hotel, to CFLs, hybrid transportation, energy star appliances, recycled paper, minimal handouts, tap water and low flow showerheads, no styro-foam, recycled fabric shirts and bags, and many other measures, the entire conference had an environmental conscience.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children…”

It is a saying from a great environmentalist – Chief Seattle – It is the principle that guides our actions as cities and mayors.

While federal government continues its endless debate on energy policy, and is mired in inaction, it has been the Mayors of this country that have taken this issue head on. In this greatest grassroots movement of our time, cities have taken the lead.

Mayors will not wait – because climate change will not wait for national policy decisions – we must act now.

Over 850 of us representing millions of Americans have now signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, in effect implementing the Kyoto Protocol in all our cities, pledging a 7% reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2012.

Now that we have a pledge, we needed to find ways to act.

Seattle for instance started a grassroots climate protection plan Climate Action Now, allowing all residents to tap into city resources, including giving away 1 million CFL bulbs reducing CO2 emissions by 20,000 tons.

Denver is building 119 miles of light rail and other transportation options, adding over 11,500 new transit trips, emitting 60,000 less tons of CO2 gas a year.

In Honolulu, people have lived in balance with the Earth for over 1,800 years. Now, they have a 21st Century Ahupua’a, a climate “umbrella” that marries traditional island respect for the environment with 21st century solutions.

Houston is now obtaining 50% of the City’s total power from renewables, the equivalent of removing 60,000 cars from the road, 300,000 tons of CO2.

Phoenix is converting all city buildings to green. San Francisco has started a Green Business Council. Austin and Chicago have balanced economic development with ecological sensibility.

New York has Plan NYC, a 127 step plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, including converting the famous New York taxis to hybrids, the equivalent to removing 39,000 cars from the streets.

And it’s not just big cities that are taking action.

Carmel, Indiana is replacing traffic signals with roundabouts, saving on average 24,000 gallons of gas per year.

In Chapel Hill, they have doubled the people riding mass transit by making it free.

Oakland Park, Illinois is powering its city fleet with B-5 fuel decreasing CO2 emissions by over 44,000 tons.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, the City celebrates Arbor Day by distributing 12,500 evergreen seedlings to every student, increasing the city’s tree canopy.

Now, we get to Miami.

Regrettably, this City has had an unfortunate past with its environment – lots of concrete, but not enough trees – our parks and waterways used as dumping grounds for toxic materials – the Miami River, Virginia Key and others ruined by a criminal disregard for nature and our environment.

One of the first things I did as mayor was launch an aggressive and ambitious environmental program to clean our parks, bays and waterways, and erase this past of neglect.

And although we made great progress, I knew all of this was not enough.

In Miami, we are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. The same geographic location that gives us year round sunshine also places us in the midst of “Hurricane Alley.”

Most of Miami is on average only 6 feet above sea level.

And we are the only major U.S. city bordered by 2 national parks: Biscayne Bay on one side, the Everglades on the other.

Any change in global climate has the possibility of negatively affecting where we live, possibly flooding our city, and eroding our natural resources.

This is why we are responding through Mi Plan - our blueprint toward sustainability. Through this plan, municipal government is changing the way it does business, placing environmental consciousness into every decision we make.

We started the city’s first ever Office of Sustainable Initiatives.

We are converting our entire city fleet to fleet to hybrids or other fuel efficient vehicles by the year 2012.

3 years ago, I traded my City issued SUV for a hybrid, have doubled my fuel economy, cut my gas consumption in half, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 tons, and I have saved taxpayers twice the amount of fuel costs for just one car. Just imagine how these savings can exponentially multiply when the city fleet goes hybrid.

We have cleaned our streets, water and greenways leading us to become the cleanest city in America.

We have created a Green Procurement Ordinance so the City’s purchasing power is used to create a market for green and eco friendly products.

In a city where hurricanes and other forces have depleted our tree cover, canopy replacement is an issue of concern. We now have a tree master plan to increase the city wide tree canopy 30% by 2020. Our goal is to have 10,000 trees per year.

Already, we have planted over 5,000 trees and I am proud that for the first time ever, Miami has been named a Tree City USA.

We have also taken the ultimate step toward sustainability by increasing the density of our city and through our City design plan, Miami 21, because bringing people back to the urban core is the ultimate antidote to suburban sprawl.

Think about this, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s people now live in cities. And, given predictions that a large majority of the world’s future population will live in urban settings, with the United States currently having nearly 90% of its population in cities, the single most critical action we can take to help save our planet is to embrace smart growth, to design cities that make sense.

For far too long, cities have been planned around cars and not people. Government policies have invested in sprawl by encouraging the use of cars. Instead, we need government policies that make it less convenient to rely on the automobile.

The idea is to make the city pedestrian friendly by building and designing around people, offering them great shared spaces of civic pride, so they may work, live, and play all within walking distance.

We are home to the first LEED pre-certified green building in the state of Florida, the Brickell Financial Centre. Our new zoning ordinance will require all buildings over 50,000 square feet to be built green. And we are creating an expedited building permit process for green buildings.

Currently, there is over $2 billion worth of green construction taking place in the City of Miami. The message is simple, you either build green, or you don’t build at all.

We also have the first green single family affordable homes in the state not far from here, built in the inner city by a local developer.

Speaking of green buildings, Miami is the first major city in America to have a solar powered City Hall. The solar panels were installed through an innovative partnership between the City, Eco Media, and CBS television – where the City receives advertising revenue through Eco Media and CBS for environmental projects – best of all, it costs taxpayers absolutely nothing.

Just this past week, Les Moonves of CBS and Paul Polizotto of Eco Media were here with me in Miami to announce that this partnership that began here is now available nationwide through all CBS affiliates - Common sense Private/Public solutions.

All of these actions I have mentioned, here in Miami, and in other cities, have been taken in spite of strained municipal budgets – with cuts coming from all sides.

Cities traditionally never had a line item for green issues, but this problem is too big for us not to address.

Now, think about what more we could do if we had a partner in the federal government willing to help…

And this is the final thought I will leave you with.

When we all go to the polls this next November and choose the next President, we must demand that he work with mayors, and all of us to develop a common sense global climate action plan.

We need to demand this of both candidates because Mayors aren’t looking for partisan solutions, neither are the American people.

And we are tired of endless debate and inaction. We must act now.

The next president needs to understand that an investment in America’s cities, an investment in our sustainability, is an investment in America’s future.

Much in the same way our preceding generation came to be known as the “Greatest Generation,” we must come to be known as the “Greenest Generation.” So that we may in fact give our children a world greater, cleaner, and greener than the one left to us.