Indiana mayor stands by his conservative case for the Paris climate deal

Indiana mayor stands by his conservative case for the Paris climate deal

By Luke Vargas   
Published
A rendering of the proposed expansion of Carmel, Indiana's Monon Greenway. Courtesy: City of Carmel
A rendering of the proposed expansion of Carmel, Indiana's Monon Greenway. Courtesy: City of Carmel

A year after the announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, one Indiana mayor says sticking with the deal is common sense.

UNITED NATIONS – It’s been one year since President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But far from triggering a global abandonment of the deal, the U.S. is now the only country outside the agreement, and a number of U.S. corporations, governors and mayors have pledged to support the deal using whatever tools are at their disposal.

Most of those standing behind the Paris Agreement are Democrats — the Republican governors of Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont being notable exceptions — but in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, Mayor Jim Brainard says sticking up for the Paris Agreement is consistent with his conservative values.

Mayor Jim Brainard. Courtesy: City of Carmel
Mayor Jim Brainard. (Courtesy: City of Carmel)

“A lot of us here in the Midwest grew up in small towns among children of people who worked the land, farmers. Those people understand it’s important to preserve it — conserve it — and traditionally it’s been a conservative value. It’s very disappointing to me that suddenly we have people who call themselves conservatives that have no interest in conserving our most important natural resource, the earth.”

Brainard admits decisions made at the national and state level have big consequences for the environment, but at the local level he sees a powerful overlap between making constituents happy by reducing traffic or cleaning up rivers, and macro-level benefits for the planet.

“How much of our carbon is because of poor building products in our buildings? Who’s in control of that? Local government. A lot of our carbon is emitted because our cities have been designed so that the average driver has to spend two hours a day in their automobile. Who’s in charge of designing those cities that are either built pedestrian-friendly, bicycle-friendly or walkable and compact, or allowing urban sprawl to create the need for all the carbon for people to get around. That’s local government in charge of that. We can govern better, and by so doing we can meet our obligations at the local level and meet our Paris obligations.”

For his part, Brainard has kickstarted ambitious tree-planting efforts, okayed the construction of more than 175 miles of bike trails and presided over a major overhaul of Carmel’s roads, replacing traditional intersections with traffic circles that cut down on accidents, noise pollution and fuel emissions.

Those efforts may align Carmel with some of America’s more liberal cities, but Brainard says his decisions are driven by common-sense local concerns, not partisan leanings.

“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democratic mayor, it really doesn’t matter when it comes down to local issues,” he said. “A constituent still wants a nice park within walking distance of their house. There’s no Republican or Democratic way to do these things.”

Click here to listen to our full interview with Mayor Brainard.

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