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Bob Buckhorn not ready to sign Sierra Club commitment of moving Tampa toward 100% clean energy future

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

After President Donald Trump said that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, Bob Buckhorn joined a list of nearly 300 mayors around the nation to proclaim that the city of Tampa would continue to push for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s fine, say local environmental leaders, but they really want the mayor to sign on to pledge to agree to transition to 100 percent clean renewable, energy for Tampa. It’s something that other Florida mayors such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Miami Beach’s Philip Levine have all committed to.

But the Sierra Club says they can’t even get a meeting with the mayor to discuss the plan.

“While Mayor Buckhorn did sign the Climate Mayors statement supporting the Paris Climate Accord, our statement means making a tangible commitment to how the City will act going forward,” says Phil Compton with the Tampa Bay Sierra Club. “It means that the entire city, not just municipal government, will be totally fossil fuel free by a certain year – anywhere from today (some cities are already there!) to 2050.”

But Buckhorn doesn’t seem to be moved by the Sierra Club’s desires.

“Our position on climate change and the need to be proactive in preparing our City is well-documented and long-standing,” responds Ashley Bauman, the mayor’s spokesperson. “Please note we joined a bipartisan chorus of Mayors honoring Paris Climate accord goals.”

“Mayor Buckhorn’s office recognizes that the 100 percent commitment does indeed carry more meaning than just supporting Paris in spirit, and is therefore hesitant to commit to setting such a goal for the city that would involve creating a plan for action,” responds Compton.

Bauman adds that Compton and Sierra Club members have met with “multiple members of our staff and we have all of their material.”

Compton says he has met with some of the mayor’s staff, but wants to sit down directly with the mayor, but says that hasn’t happened “despite requests made for the past two months.”

Buckhorn decision to sign on to the list of mayors who say they will honor the Paris climate agreement is noteworthy in that he has said in the past that he doesn’t necessarily believe that it’s important for him to sign onto such lists.

“I tend to stay away from the larger coalitions,” the mayor told this reporter back in 2012 of an organization of mayors who pledged at that time to support same-sex marriage, adding, “I don’t think they’re particularly effective.” Similarly, despite his criticism of the prevalence of gun violence, Buckhorn declined to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition started up by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino back in the mid-aughts.

The push to get Buckhorn to sign on to the list comes as the U.S. Conference of Mayors is scheduled to meet next weekend in Miami Beach, where a news conference is scheduled to be held among American mayors who’ve endorsed the 100 percent clean energy future.

More than 80 mayors nationwide have signed the pledge, fifteen of them in Florida.

The city of St. Petersburg agreed to move toward 100 percent clean energy by 2030 last year, but Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability coordinator, said such an effort would require a community-wide effort.

“It requires buy-in from decision makers, business leaders and residents,” Wright said last year. “This effort requires changes in behavior and thinking, and it will require that we discuss these challenges in places that are not always so comfortable, and it may require that we try some new things and take some risks. Aggressive goals wll likely have some upfront costs, but please consider, that no initiative and no early investment in clean energy will also have a cost.”

St. Petersburg officials are now in the process of hiring a consultant to help them with their goal of achieving a 100 percent clean portfolio. Wright was unavailable for comment as this story was set to publish.

Hundreds of citizens gathered in Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa in late April in a march on climate change.

The Sierra Club say they will hold a news conference next Monday calling on Buckhorn to sign the agreement.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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