CLIMATE CHANGE, PARIS ACCORD, AND ATLANTA’S TREES
In the wake of the federal government’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord—the historic worldwide agreement addressing climate change signed by then-President Obama — we have to get serious about the climate crisis at the local level. Now is the time for states, municipalities, and neighborhoods to join with nonprofits and companies to lead the charge. We have seen that leadership begin already, with the creation of We Are Still In, a list of cities, states, educational institutions, and companies who are reaffirming their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Preparing for the effects of climate change is no longer something we can afford to leave up to Washington – it’s on us.
At Trees Atlanta, our urban forestry work helps prepare our city for the effects of climate change. One of the best ways we can deal with increasing temperatures is to try and mitigate those effects by planting and preserving urban canopy. Under past administrations, the United States Forest Service has recognized the importance of the tree canopy in cities and funded efforts to support growth through its Urban and Community Forestry programs. But the current federal administration has put that programming on the chopping block. Should these essential programs be cut, the burden will fall entirely on local governments and nonprofits to maintain urban tree canopy.
The good news is that nationwide, governors, mayors, and the heads of our largest institutions are stepping up and making it clear that addressing climate change will remain a priority in the United States. In Georgia, we have seen civic, corporate, and educational leaders join the We Are Still In efforts – the presidents of Agnes Scott, Spelman, and Oglethorpe have all signed on, as well as companies like Interface, Ambata Capital, Biotech Inc., and Splice. Individuals are backing environmental causes at an increasing rate as well. According to Giving USA’s 2017 report, giving to nonprofits focused on the environment and animals increased 7.2% in 2016, the largest gain of any nonprofit sector.
In Atlanta, our current mayor has made an ongoing, deepened commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement to draw down carbon emissions. So have several mayoral candidates. Our city council, too, seems to understand the need to solidify tree protection in the city. This past Monday, council approved $450,000 to be put toward the next attempt at a tree ordinance rewrite, which we so desperately need. All of the candidates vying to be the next Mayor of Atlanta will have the chance to voice their commitment to greenspace at the upcoming Mayoral Candidate Forum on Greenspace, to be held the evening of July 13th at The Carter Center. We hope you will join us to hear the candidates speak, and consider their comments carefully. A commitment to our urban canopy is one of the best ways to build resiliency to climate change on a local level, and without national leadership, it is incumbent upon us to hold our local decision-makers accountable, and collectively address that challenge head-on.