Could mayor’s climate concern cost jobs?

Four City Council members are questioning whether Mayor Tom Henry’s stated support for the Paris Climate Accord, the reduction of greenhouse gases and “environmental justice” will limit the city’s ability to attract jobs.

In a June 9 letter to the Democratic mayor, President Tom Didier, Russ Jehl, Paul Ensley and John Crawford – all Republicans – stated they “appreciate the desire to be environmentally responsible,” but questioned whether Henry’s support for the Paris agreement and the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda might cause the city to “cease to welcome new jobs which have carbon footprints.” The action agenda, they noted, suggests cities establish goals to reduce emissions, develop a greenhouse inventory and a climate action plan. The Paris Accord established a 2025 deadline to reduce emissions 25 percent, they stated.

The council members also asked whether the city will spend millions of dollars to reduce sewage discharges in excess of the level required by the Environmental Protection Agency. “City Council is prepared to participate in initiatives that make our community a better place to live, work and invest,” they wrote. “However, common sense says we cannot support measures which hurt our economy or that are cost-prohibitive to taxpayers.” Any action in this regard, they said, “must be done through strong teamwork.”

Henry responded in a June 19 letter in which he listed city efforts he said have improved both the environment and the economy. “I signed on to the mayor’s climate statement in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement because the steps the city has taken over the last few years align with the goals of this agreement. The agenda to which you refer actually was created by a group of mayors in 2014 prior to the 2015 Paris Conference of Parties. Recently, some of the leaders in that group have discussed revising the initiative’s agenda.

“I would be happy to share your input and agree that our community’s success is dependent upon education, collaboration and communication.”

Jehl, however, noted that the goals referenced in the letter were taken from the mayoral climate group’s “Paris Adoption Tool Kit.”

After Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement earlier this month, Henry issued a statement in which he expressed deep concerns about the decision but said that “despite this setback on the federal level, our local efforts to improve our environment will continue.”