Hodges invited to Vatican for climate change discussion

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Pope Francis has invited Mayor Betsy Hodges and 49 other mayors from around the world to the Vatican on July 21 and 22 to discuss climate change and human trafficking.

Hodges said she is honored to have the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

“I am deeply thankful that Pope Francis is tackling issues of such grave importance not only to my city of Minneapolis but to the world,” she said. “It’s an honor to have been asked to join the upcoming gathering at the Vatican. I look forward to learning how Minneapolis can join hands in global efforts around climate change and ending the factors that contribute to 21st century trade in human beings, and to share the successes we that we as a city have achieved.”

In his recent encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis called for a bold global response to address climate change.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades,” he wrote.

Minneapolis has been called out as a leader among cities for efforts to address climate change. The city is rolling out a new citywide organics recycling program and recently launched the Clean Energy Partnership with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy.

The City of Minneapolis Climate Action Plan sets a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent this year compared to 2006 levels, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

Earlier this year, Minneapolis joined the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance — a coalition of 17 cities around the world committed to reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent or more by 2050.

City leaders have also been aggressive in efforts to fight the sex trafficking of minors and connect youth involved in prostitution with help and resources.

“We are doing a lot to address climate change and to address human trafficking — sex trafficking in particular,” Hodges said. “I think we’re doing a lot of work that is forward thinking and that’s worth sharing with others. I’m proud of that.”

She said she’s eager to learn what’s working and not working in other cities around the world and share with other mayors what’s been successful in Minneapolis.

A new Climate Disruption Index by the Weather Channel listed Minneapolis number two on the list of the top 25 cities in the U.S. most affected by climate change. New Orleans, La., ranked number one.

“Minneapolis could get pummeled from a lot of different angles, making it number 2 on our list. The city itself will be a good deal hotter than rural places close by,” the study’s author Michele Berger wrote. “It has seen precipitation increase by almost 40 percent since 1958, a trend expected to continue. Drought here will also continue to worsen. The city isn’t waiting around for these changes; in 2013, it implemented a sustainability plan that includes reducing energy consumption by 17 percent and using renewable forms of energy to meet 10 percent of its needs by 2025.”

Hodges said she isn’t surprised by the city’s ranking.

“We have to work to halt climate change, but given where we are we also have to work on our resilience,” she said. “… The weather that we have had in my adulthood is significantly different than the weather of my childhood.”

She said cities are leading the way in addressing climate change in the United States.

“Cities are having to take charge given congressional gridlock,” she said. “Cities are being innovative and taking an active role in creating policy, setting standards and implementing initiatives so we can get things done.”

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For more stories examining how local leaders are addressing climate change, go to our series, “Confronting Climate Change.”