Activists and municipal officials are pressing President Obama to agree to a meaningful deal to combat climate change when he meets with the leaders of nearly 200 countries in Paris next week.

Elected officials in Portland, South Portland, Falmouth, Freeport, Saco and Bar Harbor sent letters to Obama last week, and a group of interested Mainers plans to attend the conference, according to the environmental group Sierra Club of Maine.

Among them is Claudia King, a 62-year-old Falmouth resident who serves on Sierra Club of Maine’s executive board.

King said she was undeterred by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed in a series of attacks reportedly coordinated by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The terror attacks have prompted French authorities to extend a state of emergency, which will prevent two public demonstrations, which were expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people, from taking place at the beginning and end of the conference.

“It’s sobering,” King said. “There will be no expression in a public space, which is a loss.”


Portland Mayor Michael Brennan was among the elected officials to send a letter to Obama urging action. In the Nov. 17 letter, Brennan noted how climate change was already threatening Maine’s fisheries and how high winds, coastal flooding and other extreme storm events are damaging city roads. He also highlighted initiatives that Maine’s largest city has undertaken to combat climate change – from seeking proposals for solar installations, to rolling out charging stations for hybrid electric vehicles, to using more local food in schools, to adopting a “Complete Street” policy, which seeks to make walking and biking safer and more convenient.

Brennan said during a news conference Monday that he was personally motivated to address climate change. His first political experience was participating in the nation’s first Earth Day 45 years ago. Two years ago, he became a grandfather for the first time.

“We have an opportunity to make decisions to allow young people and my granddaughter to have a future in the city of Portland,” he said. “If we had made different decisions 45 years ago, we would not be standing here today looking to this event in Paris to be so important, because if we don’t make better decisions today, tomorrow, next week or next month, we’re going to be standing here in the near future with a climate catastrophe on our hands.”

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. For nearly a year, delegates from the 195 participating nations have been working on an agreement expected to be adopted during the conference. Obama is scheduled to attend Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Mike Williams, a 33-year-old Cumberland resident who is attending his fifth conference, said at Monday’s news conference that he hopes the agreement will include five components: strong science-based targets; transparency and verification; financing to help developing nations address climate change; a just transition for displaced workers in affected industries; and additional revenue sources, whether through carbon pricing, transaction taxes or eliminating subsidies for dirty fuels.

Williams, who will represent the Blue-Green Coalition founded by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers union, said California has shown that strong environmental regulations can also be an economic driver, as well as a moral imperative.

“Maine could be the same way if we had strong leadership,” Williams said.


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