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Rick Kriseman chastises Rick Baker’s ‘silence’ on U.S. withdrawl from Paris Climate Accord

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Rick Kriseman is one of 76 “Climate Mayors” around the county defying President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

In a letter posted shortly after Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark 2015 global agreement on voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda announced their own intent to uphold the U.S.’ end of the Paris accords within their own jurisdictions.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice,” the letter reads. “[I]f the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”

Kriseman signed an executive order in August 2015 creating an office of sustainability in St. Petersburg, and last fall the City Council formally approved the city’s commitment to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, becoming the first city in Florida and the 20th city in the country to make such a commitment.

St. Pete officials also claim that they were the first city in Florida to update their comprehensive land-use plan to comply with the state’s “Peril of Flood” Act, a 2015 law requiring local governments to plan for floods and impacts from sea-level rise.

“For far too long our city has ignored the challenges created by our changing climate,” Kriseman said Friday. “My administration is the first in our city’s history to recognize the challenge of climate change and tackle it head on. I’m proud of our record on fighting climate change, from implementing curbside recycling to pledging to become a 100% clean energy city. I’m also proud to say that we will continue to uphold the agreement that President Barack Obama and 194 other nations came together to make in 2015. Climate change is a global force with local consequences, and our beautiful coastal city is no exception.”

The letter comes as Kriseman is locked into an intense reelection battle against former Mayor Rick Baker. 

When asked for comment on whether he agrees with Trump’s decision to forgo the environmental pact, Baker sidestepped the issue on Friday, and instead attacked Kriseman.

“To me, a clean and healthy environment is critical to our health and quality of life, that’s why I am extremely concerned about the impact the Kriseman administration inflicted on Tampa Bay when he dumped 200-million-plus gallons of sewage,” Baker said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com.

“I intend to continue the positive green initiatives I started in 2006, when St. Petersburg was designated Florida’s first green city, and again under my leadership by executive order in 2008 when we created a carbon scorecard for city facility and vehicle use mandating energy conservation.”

A spokesperson said that Baker “has a track record of leadership on this issue having previously served as the Vice-Chair of Gov. (Charlie) Crist‘s Energy Action Team and as chairman of the FL Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida for multiple years.”

On the campaign trail last month, Baker used virtually the same quote about how St. Pete became Florida’s first “Green City” during his tenure more than a decade ago, adding that it would be hard to keep that status “when you dump 200 million gallons of sewage in the Bay.”

Baker was speaking of the sewage spills that occurred on Kriseman’s watch over the past two summers and his reaction to them, eliciting a huge mocking cheer from the crowd.

Jacob Smith, Kriseman’s campaign manager, took note of Baker’s reluctance to speak specifically about the Paris agreement.

“Rick Baker should know better,” Smith said. “As a former member of the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, Rick Baker has chosen to be silent and side with Donald Trump instead of speaking out against this irresponsible political move. St. Pete needs a mayor who will stand up to dangerous decisions coming out of the White House. Not one who buckles to their party’s president, refusing to even say the words ‘climate change’”

Other Florida Mayors on the list include Andrew Gillum from Tallahassee, Philip Levine from Miami Beach, and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn blasted Trump after he declared that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, saying, “President Trump will go down as being on the wrong side of history for a number of things but pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement may be the most damaging to our future.We are a nation that prides itself on our ability to work with others to help fix some of the world’s most pressing issues and this kind of reaction is shortsighted at best. Mayors across the country should stand unified and work together from the ground up to find solutions to issues facing our cities and certainly the effects of our changing climate is one of them.”

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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