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US Mayors Pledge To Deal With Climate Problem

More than 100 mayors from across the United States convened in Seattle, Washington this week to discuss how cities can play a role in fighting global warming. As Amy Bickers reports from Seattle, the participants at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Summit compared ways to slash carbon emissions while creating jobs and boosting urban economies.

At a time when concerns over climate change are increasing around the world, mayors from across the United States spent two days in Seattle, Washington to compare ways cities can help curb global warming.

The organizer of the meeting, the United States Conference of Mayors, announced that more than 710 mayors, including participants, had pledged to reduce local carbon emissions by seven-percent below their 1990 levels, in line with the international Kyoto treaty.

The Bush administration rejected the Kyoto treaty, mainly because it required mandatory emissions caps in 2001.

Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, who won his prize for his work on global warming, addressed the group via satellite link-up and exhorted them to play a leading role in the fight. "We have got to keep this momentum going. We have got to really have a change in our way of thinking. We have got to have a shift in consciousness," he said.

Mr. Gore also called for a ban on new coal-fired power plants unless they can trap and store carbon once that technology is obtainable.

At the meeting held at a hotel along Seattle's downtown waterfront, the mayors wrestled with practical methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their own communities.

The grappled with topics such as boosting mass transit and financing solar power projects. They talked about green-building standards and electric buses.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a possible independent presidential candidate, called for a national greenhouse gas tax saying it would slow global warming. Under his plan, businesses that pollute, such as power companies, would be taxed for gases they release.

The mayors agreed with Will Winn, mayor of Austin, Texas, that the federal government can do more to combat the challenge of climate change. "Regardless of who gets elected to the White House next year, the next president of the United States is going to have to prioritize climate protection," he said.

Former President Bill Clinton also addressed the mayors, telling them they need to set an example for developing countries such as China and India by showing them that there are potential economic benefits. "If we organize the market for green technologies properly, we can drive down the product prices, fight climate change, drive more economic activity and keep you under budget. And we will not get global agreement on climate change unless you can prove to people like you all over the world that this is not a burden, even though it is a very real threat to our children's future. It is the greatest opportunity we have had in our lifetime," he said.

Mr. Clinton noted that energy efficiency programs are a popular way to cut greenhouse gases by conserving energy in older or less efficient buildings. He unveiled a new program which will make energy-efficient products less expensive by giving cities volume discounts.

He also noted that so-called "clean" technology is vital for the creation and growth of new industries that could create more jobs across the country.