Out of Control Policy Blog

Urban Kyotos?

From the "taking your eyes off the ball" file:

    Mayors from some of the world's biggest cities are gathering here this week to forge a set of international guidelines for sustainable urban living - billed as a municipal version of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming that the United States never ratified.

    The Urban Environmental Accords, to be signed at the United Nations World Environment Day Conference, is the latest example of cities seeking to tackle climate change despite reluctance from their national governments.

    . . . .

    The accords spell out 21 specific actions mayors can take to make their cities greener, and signers promise to annually adopt at least three new policies, many of which involve economic incentives or legislation. In the energy arena, for instance, cities can adopt policies to increase use of renewable power, boost energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions - actions that can help cities save money and clean up the environment.

    "It's a real roll-up-your-sleeves approach," said Susan Ode, outreach coordinator for Local Governments for Sustainability. "They're actions that truly will help and can be implemented by local governments and communities."

Come on, guys...where are your priorities? Don't urban mayors have bigger fish to fry than well-intentioned fluff like this? How about...uhhhh...addressing the completely dysfunctional urban education system!? Or maybe modernizing infrastructure? Or removing regulatory barriers to affordable housing and community economic development?

Geez...not to mention the obvious competitive disadvantages from adopting local pollution control ordinances, for example. If you're the CEO of manufacturing company X and you're evaluating two cities for relocation or expansion opportunities -- one with a mini-Kyoto policy or one without -- which one will appear more appealing from a regulatory perspective?

And you can bet that the Smart Growth crowd is applauding this initiative, as it presents the movement another opportunity to push its agenda on a wide scale. So we can probably expect to hear renewed calls for such things as strong growth management policies and light-rail systems, with the attendant deleterious effects of choking off the housing supply (and raising prices), increasing congestion and density, and diverting scarce public $$$ to wasteful transit boondoggles.

These mayors apparently missed the main theme of Governing 101: good intentions tend to make bad public policy.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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