Berkeley Says It’s Standing Up to Trump, But It’s Actually Busy Arguing About Zucchini

University of California, Berkeley Campus aerial with the city of Berkeley (in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the background.

On June 1, the US Climate Mayors—a network of more than 300 city leaders, including the mayors of the country’s five largest cities—published a commitment to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.” The cities would carry out the promises Donald Trump had abandoned.

I have bad news for this feel-good caucus. Want to fight climate change? You have to fight cars. In the nation’s largest cities, cars account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. Nationally, transportation is now the single largest contributor to carbon emissions.

And it gets worse, at least from a political perspective. Mayors can fund transit, build bus and bike lanes, end free parking, and reform building codes that require it. (Though they mostly don’t.) But ultimately, the only way to combat American automobile dependency is to reform the way we build, and in particular, to help avoid low-density settlement patterns that make it impractical or impossible for Americans to get anywhere without a personal car.

Berkeley, California, is a great case study. More than 90 percent of voters there picked Hillary Clinton in November, and Jill Stein outperformed Donald Trump. If there’s an American polity with more evident devotion to fighting climate change, I don’t know where. The town is home to the University of California and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Mayor Jesse Arreguin has promised to introduce a bill to bind the city to the commitments of the Paris Agreement. 06-17-17

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