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Atlanta's Mayor Highlights Local Effects Of Climate Change At Paris Summit

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Thousands have converged on Paris for the climate talks, and it's not just negotiators and activists. Cities where people expect to be affected are sending representatives too. From member station WABE in Atlanta, Molly Samuel reports on Mayor Kasim Reed and why he's going to Paris.

MOLLY SAMUEL, BYLINE: Mayor Reed says while climate change is a global problem, the effects are local.

KASIM REED: I believe at the end of the day that the leaders on climate change are going to be mayors and local leaders.

SAMUEL: People like him set the agenda on the ground.

REED: We can make - waste, not utilizing water efficiently, not having low-flow toilets, not weatherizing your house - we can make all of these things socially unacceptable.

SAMUEL: The city is adding electric vehicles to its fleet, planning to put up solar panels. Reed says he wants to lead the South.

REED: I mean, Atlanta's not Seattle or San Francisco, but, you know, I challenge folks to show me - from the eastern border of Texas to the Atlantic Ocean, north to Maryland, D.C. and Virginia - who is being more aggressive on climate than we are.

SAMUEL: But Atlanta is in Georgia. The state is one of many suing to stop President Obama's marquis climate policy known as the Clean Power Plan. And many Georgia lawmakers are still skeptical that climate change is caused by humans.

NEILL HERRING: Hostile agnosticism is their attitude.

SAMUEL: Neill Herring is a lobbyist in Georgia for the environment group the Sierra Club. He says he's glad the mayor's going to Paris.

HERRING: Addressing a lot of these energy issues, the cities are a natural venue. Now, the state role, I think you wanted to talk about.

SAMUEL: Herring draws a civil rights analogy. He says Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen defied state lawmakers in the '60s when he testified in front of Congress and supported the Civil Rights Act. He says what Reed is doing is like that.

HERRING: It's the same kind of leadership that brought Georgia into the 20th century, where we stay, unfortunately. I hope Mayor Reed can drag us into the current century. He's certainly trying, and I appreciate it.

SAMUEL: Some state agencies are starting to take climate change into account. Reed says he's taking a long view.

REED: I understand what political environment I'm in. I know exactly what state I'm in, and I know exactly what the politics of the state are.

SAMUEL: Reed's trip to Paris is sponsored by a group of nonprofits sending a dozen mayors to the climate talks in hopes of influencing climate policy one city at a time. For NPR News, I'm Molly Samuel in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.