Emissions reduction efforts to address the issue of climate change focus on two primary greenhouse gases: CO2 and methane. CO2 is released when fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas – are burned to power our cars, produce electricity or heat our buildings. Methane is emitted in urban areas when garbage and waste products decompose, primarily in landfills. Local and state governments can play a key role because they directly influence and control many of the activities that produce these emissions. Decisions about land use and development, investments in public transit, energy-efficient building codes, waste reduction and recycling programs all affect local air quality and living standards as well as the global climate.
An important initiative has been spearheaded by the city of Seattle – the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. As of January 2009, Mayor’s in 910 cities have signed this agreement and commited their communities to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Kyoto Protocol (7 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012).