Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron will attend United Nations climate talks in Paris next week | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron will attend United Nations climate talks in Paris next week

It's not every day someone receives a personal invitation from the mayors of Paris and New York to attend the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next week.

But it happened to Aspen mayor Steve Skadron, who will trade the Armory building for Paris City Hall to attend the conference next week.

In an Oct. 15 letter addressed to Skadron, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote: "It is with great pleasure that we invite you to join us. … Your active participation during the summit will be critical to the outcomes."

Skadron also was invited to a United States Conference of Mayors meeting, and was asked to speak at a Powder Magazine-moderated climate panel that will include environmental leaders like climate scientist Elizabeth Burakowski, snowboarder Seth Wescott and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

The conferences aim to connect global leaders and empower communities to set ambitious goals toward carbon-emission reduction, Skadron said.

"We've done some progressive things and we're being recognized for it," Skadron said.

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There has been a lot of eyes on Aspen since it became the third city in the U.S. to reach its 100 percent renewable-energy goal, the mayor said.

In the summer, Skadron also joined the Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda and the Compact of Mayors, which he said is the world's largest coalition of international leaders addressing climate change.

"Our local government responds to the impact our citizens have on climate," Skadron said. "We've been able to achieve at a local level what the U.S. has failed to do on a national level."

This is one of the reasons Skadron said he is traveling to Paris — because he believes that local communities should act now instead of waiting for federal action to take place.

"How progressive we are on climate change is really a complement to our community's values, which makes it a real privilege for me to represent the community on an international stage," Skadron said.

He also thinks it is extraordinary that Aspen has been able to maintain its automobile levels at the city's entrance similar to those in 1993, which the city committed to doing at the time.

"I'm proud of Aspen because Aspen should lead. And part of that leadership is recognizing that resort communities are integral to state and national economies, and inherent to a resort community is the reliance on the natural world," Skadron said.

There's this message that green energy is expensive to the consumer, and it's not always true, he said.

He pointed out, for example, that Aspen uses 100 percent renewable energy while also maintaining one of the lowest electric rates in the state.

Skadron leaves for Paris Dec. 2 and will return Dec. 11.

Despite recent terrorist attacks overseas, Skadron said he didn't think twice about modifying or calling off his trip. After the Paris attacks, Skadron said Bloomberg sent a letter reaffirming that the mayor of Paris wanted to host the conferences and that they hope invitees will still attend.

While abroad, Skadron said he hopes to talk with the mayor of Paris about the city's recent "car-free" day and the future of mobility. Skadron said Paris ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Skadron also hopes that his trip will invigorate the community to take the necessary action to achieve Aspen's next goal, which is to reduce its emissions 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

erobbie@aspentimes.com