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The Durkan Digest Climate Edition: Leading on Climate Change & the C40 Cities World Mayors Summit

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Seattle doesn’t have the luxury of climate denial. We already see the devastating impacts of climate change on our City, our region, and our planet.

In the face of our federal government’s failure to act, cities like Seattle must continue to lead the way on climate. In Seattle, we’re committed to being part of the solution to our climate crisis, and to pioneering innovative policies that protect our environment, our economy, and our kids’ futures.

We’re not just thinking about tomorrow, but about the next 100 years, too.

That’s why this week I joined mayors from around the world at the C40 Cities World Mayors Summit.

Header for C40 Mayor's Climate Summit reading "The Future We Want. Copenhagen 9th - 12th October 2019"

This year’s theme: “The future we want.”

Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to meet with activists, fellow mayors, business leaders, and others from across the world to discuss the global response to our climate crisis and recommit to aggressive action.

Addressing our climate goals in Seattle – which has been the fastest growing city in America – means that we have to take steps to address building and transportation emissions. And ultimately, we have to get as many people out of cars and onto public transit as possible. To make that a reality, we must also prioritize building more housing near transit so more people can live and work near fast and reliable public transportation.

Seattle is one of the few cities in the country where transit use continues to increase, and we must keep making substantial investments in all forms of alternative transportation, including bike and pedestrian infrastructure. 

Here in Copenhagen, on panels, in roundtables, and in meetings I’ve been highlighting Seattle’s work towards the goals in our Seattle Climate Action strategy and some of the recent steps we’ve taken. I’ve also met with experts and climate action advocates and learned about Copenhagen’s steps on infrastructure, transportation, and housing affordability.

Photo of Mayor Durkan speaking on a large digital screen at the C40 Mayor's World Climate Summit

On Thursday morning, I joined with Mayor Eckart Würzner of Heidelberg, Germany and Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa of Tshwane, South Africa to discuss how we can take tangible steps now to address the challenge of building emissions and energy efficiency.

Mayor Durkan speaks with Mayor Eckart Würzner of Heidelberg, Germany and Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa  of Tshwane, South Africa

In Seattle, buildings account for one third of our emissions. We have already taken steps to help reduce fossil-fuel emissions from commercial buildings. But we can and must do more. Seattle is literally being rebuilt – and we can rebuild better and cleaner with zero-carbon buildings.

We also must address emissions from residential homes. That’s why I proposed an action plan to reduce our heating oil in homes, which will be equivalent to taking 90,000 cars off the road for a year.

We also passed legislation so that all new construction must include electric vehicle charging if off street parking is also built. Actions like this that lay the foundation for our electric transportation future have led to the number of registered electric vehicles in Seattle tripling since 2015. In 2018, over 10% of all new vehicle registrations in Seattle were electric vehicles.

To address the largest source of Seattle’s emissions – our transportation sector – we must move our residents out of their single occupancy vehicles and onto transit. That starts with creating a culture of transit use. That is one of the reasons I gave more than 15,000 high school students free, unlimited ORCA cards through our ORCA Opportunity program. We have also expanded the ORCA Opportunity program to pilot free transit for some of our low-income neighbors.

In Seattle, the communities hit the hardest by climate change are most often our historically underserved communities of color. As we develop and implement new policies at home in Seattle, I will continue to advocate for a race and social justice lens so that we develop solutions that truly lift all boats.

Combating climate change will require other bold moves from the City of Seattle. That is why I have committed to moving forward with congestion pricing. A few months ago, we shared the progress we have made studying the options that could work for Seattle. I look forward to additional community engagement to hear from residents how congestion pricing can fit into their commute.

Mayor Jenny joins youth and other Mayors from around the world at a Youth Climate roundtable

I also had the opportunity to sit down with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Sierra Leone and Lord Mayor Jensen of Copenhagen to speak with young leaders from across the world and about creating an inclusive global green new deal.

Today, alongside the newly-elected Chair of C40 Cities Mayor Eric Garcetti, I announced at The Future We Want press conference that Seattle will be creating a Youth Climate Council to elevate the voices of our young people who will bear the consequences of unchecked climate change. Together with the new Global Youth Initiative, the Seattle Youth Climate Council will help put the world on a path to addressing the global climate crisis.

I am so inspired by all the young people making their voices heard on climate action every day. They are the leaders of this climate change generation, and their activism will help transform our world for the better. 

The future we want is possible – and that’s why Seattle will continue to lead on climate change. Taking action to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change will help create a healthier and more just Seattle with a stronger economy. 

Please continue to write me at, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.


Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's Signature

This blog post is an excerpt from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s weekly newsletter. If would like more content like this, and a weekly recap of the exciting things happening in the City of Seattle, you can subscribe here.