There is a long and challenging road ahead of us in the effort to protect our climate from the ravages of global warming. So when we reach a milestone, even a symbolic one, it is cause for celebration.
That's why I say hurrah for Huron, South Dakota! It has the distinction of being the first city in the last state in the nation to sign onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.
The journey to this point has been tremendous. For those who don't know, it started nearly two years ago when I and nine fellow mayors, dismayed at the lack of federal leadership on climate change, pledged to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocols in our cities. On the day that international agreement went into effect -- without the participation of the United States -- our small band of mayors challenged colleagues across the country to join with us.
And they have. Beyond anyone's expectation.
With the signature of Mayor Mary A. Pearson of Huron, we now have 369 mayors pledging to do what the Bush Administration will not: take meaningful steps to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that are toasting the planet. They represent cities in every state in the nation.
This grassroots effort has cross geographic and political boundaries. We've got the Republican mayors of Arlington, Texas, Akron and San Diego. We've got big cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. And little ones: Shishmaref, Alaska (population 562), Sykesville, Maryland (4,197) and Huron (11,086).
And as these cities reduce emissions, it is having real effects. The mayors who have signed our agreement represent almost 56 million Americans. That would make us the 24th largest nation in the world.
A recent poll by the National Wildlife Federation of the hunting and fishing crowd adds weight to our claims on non-partisanship. Fifty percent of the poll's respondents consider themselves evangelical Christians. Of those people, some 70 percent think the federal government needs to do more to combat climate change.
Add to this movement the election of a new Congress that is free to think independently of the White House on important issues, and we have an opportunity for change.
It's an opportunity we plan to take advantage of at the 75th Winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors next week in Washington, D.C.
Many of the mayors who have signed the pledge will join together to press for meaningful federal climate policy, including a national cap on emissions and a market based system for trading allowances, aggressive energy and transportation policy and funding and incentives to promote local action to cut emissions.
On Thursday we will unveil the Mayors Climate Campaign 2007, and we'll lobby the 110th Congress to move America into the leadership role it rightfully should play on this urgent and critical issue. We will ask for policies that will show we can have a hot economy without toasting the planet.
When we get a national cap and trade law signed into law, we may have Huron, South Dakota, to thank for putting us over the top. Huron, home to the state fair, the Huron Ringneck Festival and the world's largest pheasant at 22 tons. How about a party at the Huron Events Center?