EP council expresses support for Paris Agreement

In keeping with the city’s ongoing pursuit of sustainability, the Eden Prairie City Council adopted a resolution July 11 in support of the goals of the Paris Agreement. The measure came on the heels of Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens joining the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

The crux of the resolution as written was a commitment to continue the city’s sustainability efforts. While the mayor and all four council members expressed enthusiastic support for continuing these initiatives, there was some disagreement on whether invoking the Paris Agreement was the appropriate way of reaffirming the city’s commitment to fighting climate change.

Councilmember Brad Aho pointed out that the Paris Agreement was an international affair, not a local one.

“One of the questions I have is, as a city, where do we have a role in adopting a resolution that speaks to an international agreement that’s made between countries?” he asked.

He read excerpts from the 32-page agreement that gave him pause, many of them centered on transfer of wealth from developed countries to developing countries to aid in sustainability efforts. He noted that by 2020, the United States, had it not pulled out of the agreement at the federal level, would have been responsible (albeit non-bindingly) for $100 billion in payments to developing countries each year.

“I think it is well and good that the city of Eden Prairie does everything we possibly can to reduce the amount of emissions that we produce, and reduce the amount of energy that we use, and I think we are doing a fantastic job at that,” said Aho. “And, I commend our staff for all of the efforts that they made on the 20-40-15 project, and all they’re doing in the future, and I think we need to continue to do that.

“But I really have a lot of questions as to what we’re doing in supporting an international agreement that is really not that fully vetted by our own Congress,” Aho continued. “I really don’t think that we ought to be approving this at this time.”

Councilmember Ron Case responded to Aho’s concerns, pointing out that the resolution was written to be supportive of the goals of the Paris Agreement, rather than a wholesale endorsement thereof. To Aho’s question of the city’s role with relation to the international agreement, Case described a vacuum left by the federal government backing out of the accords.

“Brad, you asked at the beginning, ‘Why now?’” began Case. “I think our president made that decision – why now – he chose to go a path that’s not being supported. By the last poll taken, 82 percent of Americans disagree with his action.”

Case allowed that Congress had not ratified the agreement, but pointed to the resolution before the city council as “confirmation and validation” of the city’s ongoing sustainability efforts.

“The Paris Accord has simply codified, in many, many ways, what we have already chosen to do as a city,” said Case. “There’s no extra cost to this, but we are making a statement to the people of Eden Prairie, but also to the state of Minnesota and also the United States of America … if the president’s going to duck, and if the United States government, in some ways, is going to duck our responsibilities, then there are people at grassroots levels that can, at least, step forward and do what is right.”

Aho, though reaffirming his own support for the city’s efforts, maintained that involving the Paris Agreement was inappropriate.

“I just think that the agreement, the way it is drafted, the way it is written, the way it was adopted, is not a good agreement for the United States, and that is the reason that I am against it,” said Aho. “So I am not saying that I am against trying to achieve goals that help our natural resources. I am just against this agreement.”

Aho suggested that he would support a resolution divorcing the Paris Agreement from the city’s commitments, but the mayor and other council members supported the resolution as written.

“This is an intent to show those who have more power than we do that this is an item of concern to us,” said Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens.

Councilmember Sherry Butcher-Wickstrom agreed.

“I want to say that I do appreciate the questions that Councilmember Aho has brought forward,” said Butcher-Wickstrom. “I do have to say that I think what we’re looking at here truly is the spirit of the Paris Accord, and I think it’s generally known that the Paris Accord works around this concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

She noted that she didn’t think the agreement was perfect, but still registered her support for the resolution at hand. Councilmember Kathy Nelson agreed, noting that the resolution encouraged practices that achieved financial savings in addition to environmental good.

“It’s good for Eden Prairie,” said Nelson. “It’s good for our families and our businesses. We’ve been doing it, we plan to continue doing it, and that’s what we’re saying.”

The council adopted the resolution by a vote of 4-1, with Aho casting the sole no vote.