GAITHERSBURG — Mayor Jud Ashman has signed onto two open letters affirming commitment by local governments across the country to remain committed to the carbon-reduction goals stipulated by the Paris Climate Accords, despite President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement three weeks ago.
Ashman signed an open letter to the international community from the World Wildlife Fund titled “We Are Still In.” The letter states in part, “In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.
“In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.”
Ashman also signed a letter to Trump circulated by the National League Cities, stating in part, “As the elected officials closest and most directly accountable to residents, we cannot let our communities down by taking a step back on our actions and commitments to address climate change. We urge you and your administration to partner with us to build cities that can withstand, and reverse, the physically and economically destructive effects of climate change.”
“I am proud to join leaders of state and local governments, educational institutions, and businesses in a call for continued action and advocacy to reduce our impact on this planet,” Ashman said.
At a June 5 council meeting, Ashman noted that there had been widespread public demand for action in the wake of Trump’s announcement, but said that he would not make a hasty decision without considering the full ramifications of any commitment to which the city made itself a signatory.
Our environmental staff reviewed some of the letters that had been circulating, sent an email to the Council, and there was consensus among the Council Members to sign on to the two I signed on to,” Ashman said.
“In terms of ongoing climate-related measures, we of course plan to continue to play a role as a leader on environmentally-friendly policy and legislation. We’re very proud of our record over a long period of time and we have every intention of continuing to set the standard in eco-friendly governance.”
Members of the City Council voiced support for maintaining the Paris Accord goals at the local level.
“At the next Maryland Municipal League (MML) board meeting during the annual conference next week, I plan to raise the issue with the board to explore signing onto some of these statements as a statewide organization,” said Council Member Ryan Spiegel, who also serves as president of the Montgomery County chapter of MML. “Last week the issue was also raised at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s board of directors meeting, on which I also serve, and was referred to Gaithersburg’s environmental committee for a recommendation. As the White House retreats from this most critical issue of our time, it is more important than ever that local governments recommit to our long record of environmental leadership. We can make a big difference even in the absence of federal leadership. Gaithersburg and other local governments have been at it for years with all sorts of innovative policies and programs, and we will continue to be at the forefront.”
Next week, Spiegel will step down at MML chapter president after two years in the position. He will serve as chair of MML’s statewide legislative committee.
Gaithersburg has always been a strong supporter of environmental protection,” said Council Vice President Neil Harris. “All of the city’s power is covered by carbon offsets already. We are investing in systems to clean runoff water before it drains into the Chesapeake Bay. The Paris Climate Accords is something that I personally support strongly and I’m very disappointed that our country is backing away from the treaty. I learned as a Boy Scout that it was our responsibility to leave our campsites cleaner than when we arrived. We should treat our planet the same way. Just because carbon dioxide is invisible does not mean we can dump huge quantities into the atmosphere with no effect.”