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Columbia Moves Closer to 100% Renewable Energy

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is one of 26 mayors to particpiate in the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio
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Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is one of 26 mayors to particpiate in the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is one of over 60 mayors across the U.S. who has joined with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign. The goal is to get 100 cities to switch from fossil fuel to clean energy. During a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Benjamin said decisions made by President Trump highlights the need for local governments to work together on environmental policy making.

"It only underscores the importance of the true leadership at every level of government, pushing to make sure that we hand over to our children the country and the world that they deserve."

Benjamin was speaking in response to the possibility of President Trump officially withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, according to NPR, a landmark deal in which nearly every country volunteered to curb its greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit global warming.

"We are not alone. Across the political spectrum, there are people who are thoughtful leaders who care about the environment; who care about world that we have inherited from our ancestors; who care more deeply about the world we are passing on to our children," he added.

During the press conference, which took place under the backdrop of a solar tree at Half-Moon Outfitters retail store in downtown Columbia, Sierra Club president Loren Blackford said regardless of what decision President Trump makes, local action will continue the momentum for a clean energy economy.

"If the U.S. pulls out of the Paris agreement, it won't be the first time we reneged on a deal; we pulled out of Kyoto about two decades ago," Blackford said. The New York native, recounted how former Mayor Bloomberg often said "we passed our targets because of local action."

The campaign now has the local action support of 64 mayors, they have committed to transition their cities to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. The campaign will be presented at the Conference of mayor's annual meeting this summer in Miami.

Mayor Benjamin said Columbia has already taken steps towards its goal by transitioning 95 percent of its traffic lights to LED and installing enough solar panels across the city to generate over 8.2 million kilowatts hours of electricity, over the next 25 years.

South Carolina is currently 34th in clean energy. Blackford said she is excited in working with Mayor Benjamin and other local leaders to make Columbia the first city in the state to go "all in on 100 percent renewable energy."