Event Recap: Leading by Example: State and Local Governments as Catalysts for Action on Climate Change


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On the morning of September 22, 2014, over 150 people filled the Great Hall of the New York City Bar Association for “Leading by Example: State and Local Governments as Catalysts for Action on Climate Change.”

This panel was a complement to the activities surrounding the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City during the week of September 22, 2014, bringing together a diverse group of speakers to share experiences and examples of how State and Local governments are taking direct action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of a warming climate without waiting for national and international accord on the implementation of such measures. The event was also featured as part of the official Climate Week NYC program.

This panel was sponsored by the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Environmental Law, its Committee on International Environmental Law, its Task Force on Legal Issues of Climate Adaptation, the New York State Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section, and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

Michael Mahoney, the chair of New York City Bar Association Committee on Environmental Law, opened the event by welcoming the attendees and acknowledging the timeliness and urgency behind the panel’s discussions and the UN’s Climate Summit. Mr. Mahoney’s comments can be found here.

The Keynote Speaker was Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General, who discussed ways his office and New York State have begun to creatively address issues relating to climate change without the benefit of Congressional action to date. Attorney General Schneiderman’s comments can be found here.

The Panel was moderated by Michael Gerrard, Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia University.

Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown and the Director of the California Office of Planning and Research, spoke first. Mr. Alex discussed the hurdles individual States face in implementing measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. As an illustration of these points, Mr. Alex discussed a chart depicting projected 2020 greenhouse gas emissions and methods California is implementing to reduce those emissions, which can be downloaded here.

The next speaker was Laurie Burt, President, Laurie Burt, LLC, and former Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Ms. Burt spoke about her experiences on the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) and how EPA’s Clean Power Plan can boost the economy while cutting emissions. Ms. Burt’s Clean Power Plan discussion referenced information on the slide that can be downloaded here.

Dan Zarrilli, Director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, spoke next. Mr. Zarrilli brought a local perspective to the panel, discussing New York City’s plans and policies to address the dynamics of climate change, including Mayor de Blasio’s recent pledge to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Mr. Zarrilli’s presentation materials can be downloaded here.

The final speaker was Matthew Appelbaum, Mayor of the City of Boulder, Colorado. Mayor Appelbaum gave an overview of the problems Boulder faces with a warmer climate, such as increased flooding and fires, and examples of how Boulder has sought to mitigate these problems through local ordinances and planning. He also shared insights into Boulder’s efforts to localize and control its energy services. Mayor Appelbaum’s presentation materials can be downloaded here.