Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade mayor declines to weigh in on Paris climate treaty

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says fighting climate change is a top priority in Miami-Dade, but he won’t say whether President Trump was right to exit the Paris accord.
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says fighting climate change is a top priority in Miami-Dade, but he won’t say whether President Trump was right to exit the Paris accord. emichot@miamiherald.com

Asked about the Paris accord, Miami-Dade’s mayor declined to join other local leaders in calling for President Donald Trump to stick with the global alliance against climate change.

At a press conference Thursday arranged for the June 1 start of hurricane season, Mayor Carlos Gimenez was asked if he thought the United States should remain in the agreement to try and slow the warming of the planet.

“We’re here to talk about hurricane preparedness right now,” said Gimenez, a Republican who backed Hillary Clinton last fall. “Any questions on hurricane preparedness?”

When pressed, Gimenez noted he had mentioned in his remarks about storm preparation that the county was focused on the issue. “The work we do toward resiliency takes into account sea-level rise and climate change,” he said.

Hours later, the mayor’s office issued a statement that emphasized Miami-Dade’s action on climate change but stopped short of endorsing the global accord. In the statement, Gimenez cited a 2015 summit of mayors in Los Angeles that endorsed measures to fight sea-level rise and climate change.

“I signed a commitment to meet certain benchmarks to reduce carbon emissions,” Gimenez said, “most of which Miami-Dade County has been actively doing for several years and as far as we know, are more stringent than the Paris Agreement.”

The statement also cited Miami-Dade’s participation in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program to fight climate change, and a regional Climate Change compact.

“We will continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in the statement, “through energy conservation, expansion of solar energy generation, increased use of electric vehicles and using innovative new technologies.”

After Trump announced Thursday he was pulling out of the global accord out of concern about the agreement’s ability to damage the U.S. economy, more than 60 mayors issued a letter endorsing the Paris agreement.

With Miami seen as the U.S. city most vulnerable to climate-change consequences, the issue is particularly sensitive for local leaders. The mayors of Miami (a Republican) and Miami Beach (a Democrat) both said Thursday they wanted the United States to stay in the global agreement, as did Republican members of Congress from Miami.

Describing Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord as a “big problem,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said he’d be happy, if asked, to pen his name alongside the dozens of other big-city mayors saying that their cities will continue to honor the agreement that previously was endorsed by almost every nation on earth.

“I would add my name because I think it’s important to send a message,” he said. “Besides, I don’t like the company of Syria and Nicaragua.”

Several months ago, Gimenez appeared to include a dig on Trump during an address a few days before Inauguration Day when the mayor said of sea-level rise: “It’s not a theory. It’s a fact. And we live it every day.”

Within a week, though, Gimenez came under intense criticism when he was the only big-city mayor to change policy on immigration detentions after the new president threatened to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities. The new county policy honors detention requests at county jails for people held on local charges and also sought for possible deportation.

Trump’s administration has not yet withheld any aid. Gimenez is hoping to secure billions of dollars in transit aid for a new countywide rail system, and cited the transportation aid as one reason he wanted to comply with the Trump administration’s demands on the 48-hour detention requests.

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.

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