A week after world officials reached a historic agreement in Paris to limit greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change, a group of local environmental activists gathered Saturday in Philadelphia to energize each other for the city's role.
"It will come down to the local [levels] and states to really lead the way," said Anthony Giancatarino, director of the energy democracy program at the Center for Social Inclusion. "We actually have a huge role to play."
The international agreement gives Philadelphia "a backdrop to be ambitious" in its actions to curb climate change, said Giancatarino, who is also chair of the policy committee at Green Justice Philly.
Eleven local environmental groups hosted a discussion with two activists who went to Paris for the United Nations conference: Giancatarino and Poune Saberi, a member of Mayor-elect Jim Kenney's committee on the environment and sustainability. They spoke to about 100 members of environmental groups Saturday afternoon at the Friends Center.
Saberi said voters should refuse to support candidates who back the use of fossil fuels. Local green groups reiterated their opposition to refineries in the region. Groups plan to march during the Democratic National Convention in July to call for a fracking ban and a transition to renewable energy.
The agreement 195 countries reached at the climate change conference includes limiting global temperature rise, investing in sustainable energy and submitting climate plans every five years.
Officials have said Philadelphia will experience warmer temperatures and wetter weather as a result of climate change.
"Philadelphia is at a crossroads right now," said Matt Walker, community outreach director for the Clean Air Council.
The city can either quickly transition to renewable energy to work toward being the greenest city in the country - long a stated goal of the Nutter administration - or, Walker said, the city can continue to build up fossil fuel facilities. "We want to make sure the time and public resources being spent on Philadelphia's energy future are directed toward the healthy, safe, and clean energy options," he said.
Mayor Nutter pledged support for the United Nations agreement, saying cities are "on the front lines."
"With a new agreement now in place, cities will be central to developing and implementing solutions to meet national and international carbon reduction and clean energy targets," he said Monday in a statement.
As the sun set Saturday, about 30 attendees of the Philadelphia summit stood outside LOVE Park and Dilworth Plaza to sing carols with environmentally altered lyrics, including "Solar Cells," "Dreaming of a Green Future," and "I Have a Little Windmill."