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Trump Says He Represents Pittsburgh, Not Paris. But Pittsburgh Mayor Says City Still in Climate Deal

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At the U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany, officials representing nearly 200 nations ended an all-night round of negotiations early Saturday morning. The negotiations were aimed at hammering out the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate deal. This year was the first COP since President Trump vowed to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal, a process which takes four years. Despite Trump’s vows to withdraw from the deal, a number of progressive U.S. senators, governors and mayors staged an anti-Trump revolt last week in Bonn, proclaiming “We Are Still In.” We spoke with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just returned from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, where, early Saturday morning, officials representing nearly 200 nations ended an all-night round of negotiations aimed at hammering out the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate deal.

Many had feared the U.S. would fully derail this year’s talks, as this year was the first COP since President Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Paris accord, a process which would take four years. But the Fiji prime minister, who presided over this year’s COP—that’s conference of parties—said there were notable achievements this year on the agreements around agriculture, ocean protection, indigenous peoples’ rights and a new climate insurance system for poorer nations.

Another achievement included the launch of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of more than 20 nations who have committed to phasing out coal. The United States, along with Germany, Poland, Australia, China and India, refused to sign on to the pledge, although the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon bucked the federal government and did sign on.

Many environmental activists, however, say this year’s talks did not go nearly far enough, especially as new data shows global carbon dioxide emissions are once again rising, after flatlining for three years straight.

Meanwhile, on December 12th, France will host a climate change summit in Paris on the second anniversary of the signing of the landmark Paris climate deal. French President Emmanuel Macron says President Trump will not be invited.

Well, despite President Trump’s vows to pull out of the Paris climate deal, there were a number of progressive U.S. senators, governors, mayors who staged an anti-Trump revolt last week in Bonn. Among them, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. I began by asking Mayor Peduto of Pittsburgh when President Trump announced in July he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal by saying he was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. … It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France. It is time to make America great again.

AMY GOODMAN: And so there he was, Mayor Peduto, saying, “I’m here to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Your response?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: Well, there I was. I get a little alert, and it just says, “President Trump to leave Paris Agreement.” And then I just went, “That’s horrible,” because I was at COP21. I was one of nearly 500 mayors that gathered, the largest gathering of mayors in Earth’s history, to be able to say to the federal governments, “We got this. We’re going to do it anyways. We’re going to implement it. It’s OK.” And then, about two minutes later, I see a tweet from Sean Spicer, and it has that quote on it. And according to my chief of staff, I walked into his office, and I just yelled, “Pittsburgh?”

It flew in the face of 30 years of progress that Pittsburgh had made, a city that had lost the quality of its air and its water in an effort to build this country, building every skyscraper, every bridge, and then a city that died, whose economic heart was ripped out of it, and, instead of trying to find a way to rebuild the factories and the mills and the minds, found a way to reinvent itself, very much in the spirit of what the Paris Agreement was talking about. And if there was one city the president could point to that would represent what that spirit of the Paris Agreement was, it was Pittsburgh. So, I was taken aback by the very fact that he was using an old stereotype of Pittsburgh in order to make his point.

AMY GOODMAN: And you said Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow Paris Agreement. What kind of response did you get from the White House, Mayor?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: There was no response from the White House. And the response that I received from colleagues across the country was overwhelming support: “We’re with you.” The amount of support from the social media, from globally, saying that “We’re with Pittsburgh, in Paris,” and then Mayor Hidalgo reaching out, as well.

And then we penned an op-ed together called “Pittsburgh and Paris.” And that op-ed led to this op-ed coming into this COP23, “Pittsburgh and Bonn.” What can we learn from post-industrial cities that won’t just allow them to play catch-up to other cities when we’re talking about climate change, but leapfrogging other cities to be the leaders in climate change?

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you doing in Pittsburgh? What is your commitment to renewables, to a sustainable city?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: What we’ve done in the past year, since the president’s announcement, is increased our commitment, increased our commitment to zero waste, increased our commitment to 100 percent renewable, increased our commitment to ways that transportation, urban planning, housing will all be affected by minimizing the amount of carbon that we’re going to be producing. And we’ve now exceeded what we promised in the Paris Agreement.

And that’s been happening throughout this country. Throughout the United States, you see city after city doing it. It’s very important to note that that day the president made that statement, there were 61 U.S. cities that were part of the Climate Cities. Pittsburgh was one of them. Today, there’s 367. It’s galvanized the support, Democrat and Republican mayors, Democrat and Republican councils, saying that we will follow through, that we are still in.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re both here in Bonn, but Democracy Now! broadcasts from New York, from a LEED Platinum certified studio. You talked, in this event that was sponsored by young people, young environmental activists, about environmental construction in Pittsburgh. What are you doing to make the building of Pittsburgh sustainable?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: Well, Pittsburgh is one of the leaders in the green building movement, and it was led by a woman named Teresa Heinz. And she saw the potential of it not only being something that was sustainable, but could also help to bring Pittsburgh back, by manufacturing the materials, understanding the techniques and being able to do it.

And so, we’ve partnered with our trade unions in order to be able to take LEED certification to a point where it also means good wages, union wages. We’ve been able then to take it to the next level: living buildings, buildings that actually use the same amount of energy as a flower. And Pittsburgh is the only city in the world with two examples that are presently open.

And then we’ve taken it to passive housing, but not just passive housing, but passive affordable housing, affordable housing for folks who are getting out of situations where they’ve been in orphanages or halfway houses, and for seniors to be able to live in quality housing later in life, that they can afford to live in quality environmental housing. So we want to see how environmental housing can affect everyone. We were chosen as a Choice Neighborhood by HUD, and we’re creating our greenest development in our—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: —in our poorest neighborhood. And we’ve also just—

AMY GOODMAN: How are you doing that?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: We’ve created a program that went by the neighborhood’s community plan, that called for green housing, the building of a new park, the establishment of more greenery and urban forest, and we’ve put it into one of our lowest-income neighborhoods.

And the last thing that we’re doing, we’re, with HUD right now, working to build the largest urban farm in the country. Pittsburgh, in an area that had been abandoned years ago, from a former housing area to an area that will come back with mixed housing, including affordability, and the largest urban farm in America.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re on the terrorism watch list?


AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Peduto of Pittsburgh?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: Yeah. That would have made it hard to get onto a plane.

So, there was a lot of conversation that was going on in Pittsburgh very early on with fracking and trying to understand the balance between what the Constitution of Pennsylvania guarantees every Pennsylvanian, which is the guarantee of safe water, and what we could do and what challenges fracking in the city of Pittsburgh would mean in regards to three rivers that supply drinking water to all of our people. The question was: Would we be able to have a legal argument to ban, through zoning, the fracking occurring because of the proximity to either high population density or drinking water? And it wasn’t really sure, but we were pushing it anyways.

During that same process, it came out through an article, I believe in The Philadelphia Inquirer, that the City Council of the city of Pittsburgh had been placed on the Pennsylvania Homeland Security’s terrorism watch list. And during that same time period, we wanted to know how and why that occurred. The person who had been hired by Ed Rendell was removed from office. The bill went through, and it was never challenged. Had it been challenged, we made it very clear, we were going to call for full disclosure.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happened now?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: There hasn’t been any fracking in the city of Pittsburgh. Even though there were land leases at that time in different areas of the city, there has never been a challenge by any of the companies, either.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you ever stopped from going on a plane?


AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about sanctuary cities. Is Pittsburgh a sanctuary city?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: It is by the definitions of what a sanctuary city is, meaning that we will not detain, arrest any individual based upon a request by ICE, as long as there isn’t a warrant for their arrest. We will not use our local law enforcement to be federal officials, because it goes against the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, and it could also go against the Fourth Amendment of search and seizure. We recognize that the rights of individuals under—being in this country guarantees them rights under the Constitution. So, that part of it is. But our jail system and our court system is separate than our municipal government system. So we don’t have any say over those parts of it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, does this mean you lose any federal funding?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: No, because that’s been proven in court cases, as well, that the interpretation—

AMY GOODMAN: They threatened you with it?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: Well, yes, they have. And they actually had required cities, in applying for the COP grants, the COP grants, to sign to it that they would not be a sanctuary city or would cooperate with ICE on any of the actions. I wouldn’t sign it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you doing here? I mean, we cover this COP summit every single year since Copenhagen. Big U.S. official delegation. This year, well, it looks like the Trump administration will be here, represented by Peabody coal and a few other corporations, maybe a few government officials. They’ll be pushing nuclear power, gas and—


AMY GOODMAN: Coal. So, you have a different delegation here. You have a major tent. It’s thousands of feet. What’s happening? The government is split in two?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: I don’t think that that is the case. I think that what you’re seeing is Americans, citizens of the country, some elected officials, lots of NGOs, saying to the world, “We’re still in,” that we’re willing to be able to be here to tell you that we’re still going to meet our commitments. Even though one part of our federal government, the executive branch of our federal government, has said that they aren’t going to follow the Paris Agreement, it doesn’t mean that individual cities, states, organizations, corporations and others won’t do our part to meet it. And in doing so, we’ll be doing what we can and, basically, what is the most important part of it—implementation—to make sure that the United States does follow the Paris Agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on President Trump being a proud climate change denier?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: God bless democracy. I can’t say anything for—you know, for the president or his opinions. But I know that I can do my part, and every American can do their part, to assure that there’s a safe and secure future for our country, economic opportunity and growth through a green economy, and the opportunity to do what our responsibility is to assure that climate change has a minimum negative impact.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump was just in China. It looks like China will be the leader when it comes to building solar panels, alternative energy. They see the market is wide open, with the U.S. pushing coal, nuclear and gas. Your thoughts about this?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO: Well, we’re in Germany, and Germany is a major producer of wind turbines, made by German steel, by German workers. We see in China the solar cell technology advancing to the point, past the United States, where the solar cells themselves are becoming able to secure more energy. We look at India, where they’re being assembled into solar panels. And I ask, “Why not West Virginia? Why not Michigan? Why not Ohio and Pennsylvania? Why can’t we be the ones that are manufacturing and creating these jobs of tomorrow, instead of being sold the false promises of the jobs of yesterday?”

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, last week. When we come back, we’ll hear from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: That’s The Coup. Best wishes to Pam the Funkstress.

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