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Mayors Outside South Dakota Interested in Fighting Climate Change

Kate Wright, new exec of Climate Mayors, says the hundreds of mayors participating in the group’s effort to take local action to fight climate change are hoping to use the big Biden infrastructure program to launch a host of climate change responses:

The need for infrastructure investment is huge. We have a growing need for building energy efficiency and decarbonizing buildings in terms of reducing energy bills as well as the public health benefits.

Climate Mayors launched an EV purchasing collaborative in 2018 that now includes over 250 cities, counties, and other authorities committed to purchasing thousands of electric vehicles by pooling together their purchasing power. Our work around electrifying vehicles and moving to more bikeable, walkable communities is going to be a big part of the strategy.

We are already seeing climate impacts in communities, and mayors are working to face them, looking at urban greening or cooling strategies to address extreme heat. One of our climate mayors, Kate Gallego, has committed to making Phoenix the most sustainable desert city in the United States. They’ve launched the first publicly funded office of heat response and mitigation and a successful cool pavement pilot.

We have proven technology and proven approaches, and we’re working with the administration to share lessons learned from previous stimulus packages and infrastructure investments to make sure that we’re mobilizing funding in a way that’s truly transformative [Kate Wright, in Carl Smith, “America’s Mayors Mount a Bipartisan Push for Climate Action,” Governing, 2022.04.18].

Mayors are more likely to tackle climate change because they are less subject to abstract partisan bushwah and more responsible for solving the problems climate change is causing:

Mayors are so much closer to their constituents. They are beholden to their community members’ interests across the political spectrum, dealing with everything from pothole issues to crises like climate change and pandemic response. At the local level, we don’t see the same level of split because we’re rolling up our sleeves and working towards community solutions.

…Mayors are on the front lines of the climate crisis. They’re on the ground dealing with extreme storms, heat waves, drought, wildfires — including wildfires from surrounding communities.

We’re addressing very specific impacts like a heat wave or an extreme storm, and mayors are the front lines of the need for reaction and response. They’re well positioned to identify solutions that fit the community context and to be creative about working with local business owners or local stakeholders to develop innovative solutions [Wright, 2022.04.18].

Alas, no mayors in South Dakota seem so inclined. According to Climate Mayors’ map, South Dakota and North Dakota are the only two states with no mayors participating in this effort against climate change:

Climate Mayors, member-city map, retrieved 2022.04.18.
Climate Mayors, member-city map, retrieved 2022.04.18.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken announced a “Sustainability and Climate Action Plan” on March 1 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, but Mayor TenHaken chickened out of that plan before the month was over.

Climate change is as real and harmful in South Dakota as anywhere else. Perhaps South Dakota’s mayors will catch up with reality before the harms get much worse.


  1. Mark Anderson 2022-04-18

    Those southeastern Florida mayor’s are definitely interested in fighting climate change. Our governor would rather talk trans, CRT, not gay I guess, or any other subject rather than climate change. He can’t cross Trump on that one. Trump can always move back to Manhatten, on the third floor of course. The people of Miami are getting their feet wet on this one. It’s going to be the place where a wall will definitely be built, you’d think Trump would buy into that.

  2. Richard Schriever 2022-04-18

    Aside from the few (3 or 4?) SD municipalities that operate under their own independent charters, SD mayors, by state law, have essentially no power other to agenda setting in council meetings, and breaking tie votes in said meetings.

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