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Niagara Falls mayor addresses climate change

While world leaders gathered in Paris to ink a historic climate change agreement, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster met in Toronto with his fellow mayors from eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to join in the call to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

“Climate change is real. We can no longer bury our head in the sand and pretend that we don’t have an impending disaster on our hands,” Dyster said.

Dyster joined the coalition at the annual board of directors meeting at the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational coalition of 119 mayors representing 17 million people. The group works together to protect, restore and sustain the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Niagara Falls will host the group’s annual meeting and conference June 15-17.

In Paris last Saturday world leaders completed the first-ever accord, agreed to by nearly 200 nations, which requires all countries to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The “Paris agreement” also aims to keep the rise in temperature “well below” 2 degree Celsius and endeavors to limit the increase even further, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The deal, which will take effect in 2020, is the first time all nations, not just wealthy ones, are being urged to work together to join the fight against climate change.

In supporting the limit on a global average temperature increase, Dyster said that many low-lying coastal and island areas find themselves in real danger due to sea level rise.

“How we deal with climate change will be vital to the future of this planet,” Dyster said.

Dyster told the City Council on Monday, coincidentally a day that temperatures had reached record highs across the area, that while the warm weather is nice in December, he worries about what the weather will be like in July or five years from now if things don’t change.

He said the Compact of Mayors, an international organization of mayors, has been organized to support cities in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. He said members of the Great Lakes coalition are beginning to sign on to the compact, with Rochester the first city to do so. Currently more than 400 cities have signed up and Dyster said at a future meeting he will ask the Council to sign a commitment letter to join the Compact of Mayors.

He said it requires the city to undertake an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in the city, to catalog climate hazards in the city, set a target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and also identify climate vulnerabilities in Niagara Falls. Finally, as part of the three-year effort, the city would put together a plan for change.

“Like the Paris Accord itself, you are setting targets, compliance of which is voluntary,” Dyster said. “We are playing our own small part in doing the right thing.”

Dyster said there is no cost for the program and the city will seek out university partners to assist in information gathering and planning.

He said Niagara Falls has taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint, including making energy efficiency upgrades to multiple municipal buildings and constructing its public safety building and new train station to LEED standards, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, a green building certification program.

Information about the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and their Western New York Climate Pledge is at