Developing sustainable cities ranks high on the to-do list for mayors nationwide. The issue was a hot topic at the 2007 Mayors Climate Protection Summit last fall, the largest-ever gathering of U.S. mayors on climate issues. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan group representing cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

Guest speakers, including former President Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, encouraged the 100 mayors in attendance to take action. Referring to the lack of federal initiative in Washington, D.C., Bloomberg said, “On climate change, the duck-and-cover usually involves pointing the finger at others. It's China this and India that. But wait a second. This is the United States of America. When there's a major challenge, we don't wait for others to act. We lead. And we lead by example. flat's what all of us here are doing.”

Mayors in attendance pushed for an Energy Block Grant, which would allow cities with budget constraints to receive federal grants that support and expand local energy-efficiency projects. The grant was approved by both houses of Congress but is pending White House approval. Also, Clinton unveiled a plan to help 1,110 cities purchase energy-efficient products at volume discounts, which will help the more than 700 mayors who have signed a pledge to reduce their cities' carbon emissions to 7 percent below their 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol.