U.S. Mayors and Local Leaders Go to Egypt to Urge “All Hands On Deck” for the Climate Emergency at COP27

Following advocacy successes by ICLEI and partners in last year’s COP26, the historic Paris Climate Agreement now officially recognizes local governments as critical to achieving global climate outcomes. The delegation of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI) leaders at the UNFCCC’s 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) underscores the importance of the U.S. government partnering with local governments to meet national climate targets. 

ICLEI USA and its delegation bring evidence of moving beyond commitments to concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. COP27 is the “implementation COP” when the Paris Agreement is in full effect, and nations must deliver on their commitments. Following last year’s successful conference, when more than 60 nations brought enhanced Paris climate plans while attributing their ability to increase ambition in part to subnational climate action, COP27 calls on nations to step up ambition further and build on collaboration across all levels of government.

ICLEI USA announced today its delegation of nine local leaders representing U.S. cities, towns, and counties.

Honorable Mayor Frank Cownie, Des Moines, IA and ICLEI USA President. Mayor Cownie has served five terms as Mayor of Des Moines. He’s currently the Global President of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Global Vice President representing the U.S. for Mayors for Peace and as a Trustee with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayor Cownie has dedicated his servant leadership to combating climate change, continuously bringing a local voice to domestic and international stages. He aided the City of Des Moines in passing 24/7 clean electricity standards, investing in energy efficient vehicle fleets and facilities, and requiring all new city buildings to be certified LEED silver or greater. Mayor Cownie remains committed to facilitating multi-level action, moving ideas to practice and to mitigate further global damage caused by climate change.

“The global status of climate change requires us to start acting on the ideas we’ve discussed for decades. As we move forward, we must look to multi-level action plans that will mitigate the effect of climate change, and not only the domestic and international levels. Local governments are the implementers of the actions that need to take place to reduce the impact of the climate crisis.”

Honorable Mayor Frank Cownie, Des Moines, IA and ICLEI USA President

Commissioner Brigid Shea, Travis County, TX and ICLEI USA Board Chair. Brigid Shea is a former award-winning reporter at NPR stations who has proved her grit by fighting climate change in Texas since 1988. As a former Austin City Council member she helped create the first wind project in Texas. As a current Travis County Commissioner, her work to reverse climate change and better prepare residents for climate impacts has won 2 National Association of Counties (NACo) awards: one for creating a neighborhood wildfire drill, the second for dramatically improving the reach of emergency warning systems.

“As a local elected official we have to do more to prepare our residents for the devastating impacts of climate change. We also have an important role to play in reducing local GHG emissions. The nations of the world can’t do this by themselves- they need to partner with us at the local level.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea, Travis County, TX and ICLEI USA Board Chair

Councilmember Kelly Takaya King, Maui County, HI and ICLEI USA Board Member. Kelly King is Vice President of Pacific Biodiesel, a renewable energy company she co-founded with her husband Robert King in 1995. Currently in her third term on the Maui County Council, Kelly Takaya King chairs the Council’s Climate Action, Resilience, and Environment Committee and is Vice President of the Hawai`i State Association of Counties. Last year, King was recruited to join the board of ICLEI-USA – Local Governments for Sustainability, and she was recently appointed to the Local Government Advisory Committee to the Environmental Protection Agency.  This year, King was one of just two U.S. ICLEI board members invited to participate as an official ICLEI delegate to the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

“It was a great honor to be invited to participate in COP26 last year. I left inspired by the immense wealth of global minds in attendance, all committed to tackling the evolving climate challenges of our times. I expect that COP27 will be just as fruitful, with many innovative ideas to bring back home to our own communities.”

Councilmember Kelly Takaya King, Maui County, HI and ICLEI USA Board Member

Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Jose, CA. Mayor Sam Liccardo is currently serving in his second term as Mayor of the 10th largest city in the United States. During his tenure as Mayor, Sam led efforts to fund the construction of thousands of units of affordable housing, provided jobs to more than 4,000 teens living in gang-impacted neighborhoods, and coalesced multi-billion-dollar investments in new transit. Last year, San José Mayor Sam Liccardo pledged to make the city carbon neutral by the end of the decade, becoming one of the largest cities in the United States to have set the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Under his climate leadership, Mayor Liccardo also championed the elimination of natural gas in all new construction, adopting ambitious building reach codes, launching energy rebates and incentives for low-income communities, and investing in climate focused natural and working lands by preserving nearly 1000 acres of open space in Coyote Valley in San Jose.

“San Jose continues to be a global leader for climate action, through innovative solutions that green the grid, electrify buildings, and expand transit, as our residents and businesses move aggressively towards our carbon neutral by 2030 goal,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I am honored to join ICLEI and speak at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt, as the global community works to create a sustainable future.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Jose, CA

Pam O’Connor, Former Mayor and Council Member, City of Santa Monica, CA and ICLEI USA Board Vice-Chair. Pam has championed policies and partnerships that enhance community livability and wellbeing on the Santa Monica City Council since 1994 and has served as Mayor five times. She is particularly interested in issues that advance sustainability and mobility. Pam serves on Advisory Boards for the Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute and UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. She participated in the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is an active member of the National League of Cities having served on its Transportation Infrastructure and Services Committee, Information Technology and Communications Committee, and on the Board of Women in Municipal Government.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland, CA. Mayor Libby Schaaf was born and raised in Oakland, which she proudly describes as, “The most unapologetic Sanctuary City in America.” During her tenure, Oakland has undergone an economic revitalization and building boom, as well as cut gun violence in half. Her “17K/17K Housing Plan” has helped increase Oakland’s affordable housing production, stabilize rents, and decrease evictions. Her innovative public-private partnerships Keep Oakland Housed and Cabin Communities are credited with preventing 1,800 families a year from losing their housing, while resolving some of Oakland’s most unsafe street encampments. In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Mayor Schaaf to California’s first Council of Regional Homeless Advisors. Mayor Schaaf is most proud of launching the Oakland Promise, a bold cradle-to-career initiative. This initiative has sent more than 1,400 Oakland students (and counting) to college with scholarships and mentors, and will give every baby born into poverty a $500 college savings account at birth.

“The climate crisis demands bold action. Oakland has demonstrated that an equity-centered approach can balance the need to reduce emissions while maintaining focus on creating affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and reducing racial disparities in employment and safety.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland, CA

Dan StilesFounding Partner at Stiles.Legal and Senior Strategic Advisor and General Counsel to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project and ICLEI USA Board Member. Dan is an experienced general counsel, business leader and advisor, tech entrepreneur, and climate activist. Dan provides counsel to organizations seeking to make a positive human impact doing advocacy work from main street to Congress and international advocacy from Beijing to the United Nations. He has managed risk for clients through the Paris terrorist attack to broadcast television productions reaching over 800 million people worldwide. Dan has served as a strategic advisor and general counsel for former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s nonprofit, The Climate Reality Project, since 2009.

Meghna Tare, Chief Sustainability Officer at University of Texas – Arlington and ICLEI USA Board Member. As Chief Sustainability Officer for UT Arlington, Meghna works collaboratively to foster partnerships among academic, research, and operational departments ,and promotes sustainability in areas of energy efficiency, waste management, transportation, education, outreach, and sustainability-focused curriculum. She has expertise in UN SDGs, public policy, CSR, climate change, equitable food systems, transportation, conservation, and social impact. She is the Founder and Director of Regional Center of Expertise for Education in Sustainable Development ( RCE North Texas), a program of the United Nations University, and the North Texas Food Policy Alliance. She graduated with an MBA in Sustainable Management, MS in Environmental Science, and MS in Chemistry.

Rob Werner, Former Councilmember Concord, NH. Rob Werner is the New Hampshire State Director for the League of Conservation Voters, a national advocacy organization that works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities. Rob formerly served as the National Field Director of Americans for Campaign Reform. A public policy analyst and advocate, Rob has extensive experience in the health care sector, working in the private, government, and non-profit areas. Rob is a graduate of Northfield Mount Hermon School and the University of Vermont. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Suffolk University as well as two certificates from the Harvard Kennedy School, Senior Managers in State and Local Government and Climate Change and Energy Policy.

“Local action and policy initiatives are essential to the progress of reducing carbon emissions and meeting the challenge of the climate crisis, representing the biggest innovation opportunity of the 21st century.  We can meet this existential threat in a way that improves our environment, creates economic opportunity for communities, and creates jobs for our citizens.”

Rob Werner, Former Councilmember, Concord, NH.