19 worldwide mayors ban together against EPA cuts

G-Jun Yam
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 19 mayors from five different continents exchange ideas for waterway development projects Mar. 13.

By Eric Bradach

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by 18 mayors from 11 different countries for an Urban Waterways Forum to exchange ideas for waterway development projects to create economic growth and higher environmental standards in uncertain times.

Emanuel said during the March 13 press conference that the global community shares the same challenges, and the intention of the forum was to contribute new ideas on how to meet individual goals and make our lakes and rivers a “pathway for prosperity.”

Emanuel and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo organized the forum, as reported Dec. 12 by The Chronicle, which was also co-hosted by World Business Chicago and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at River Point, 444 W. Lake St.  

Hidalgo said it is an important conversation to have among leaders worldwide because the ramifications of climate change impact all nations.

“We don’t have life if we don’t have water,” Hidalgo said. “All the cities around the world are built close to the sea or rivers, and today we need to have a new vision about waterways.”

Cities are the drivers of change and economic growth, said Mayor Patricia de Lille of Cape Town, South Africa.

It is important to temper the impacts of climate change because we only have one planet, she added.

“We don’t have the luxury of learning from trial and error,” de Lille said. “We have to learn to do things right the first time.”

AfterMayor Byron Brown of Buffalo, New York, thanked Emanuel and Hidalgo for organizing the forum, he said it was a thought-provoking conference that allows him to return to his city with new ideas.

It is an important time for mayors worldwide to protect their freshwater sources, said Mayor Denis Coderre of Montreal, in order to protect and enhance the overall quality of life because of the current White House administration.

“What you’re witnessing today is a formidable new force [and] a political counterbalance,” Coderre said. “We’re asking the government of the United States to reconsider the budget cuts regarding the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River because I think it is a disgrace.”

President Donald Trump and current head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt have caused controversy with views toward climate change and the general public’s environmental concerns. Recently, dramatic cuts to both the EPA and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which uses federal funds to target threats to the Great Lake’s ecosystem, have been in discussion.

Emanuel said cutting the Great Lakes cleanup funding from $300 million to $10 million, if approved, would be devastating because 20 percent of the freshwater in the U.S. is in the Great Lakes, and the damage would be “irreparable.”   

“Lake Michigan is our Yellowstone. That is our Grand Canyon,” Emanuel said. “We have to treat it with that same respect and investment towards the future, it’s not just something that’s beautiful to look at, but it’s the lifeblood of our city.”