Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Says 'Coastal' Green New Deal Leaves Middle America Behind

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has ambitious plans to tackle the threat of climate change and stimulate economic growth in his city and the wider region, but he's clear that the proposed Green New Deal falls short.

In an interview with Newsweek, the Democrat, who won re-election to a second term in 2017 with no opposition, explained that real solutions to climate change would create American jobs.

Peduto was one of 500 mayors to participate in the Paris conference on climate change and he welcomed President Joe Biden's decision to rejoin the accord on his first day.

"Basically our message was very clear," Peduto said. "It was, look, we understand the need for global treaties, and we understand that in order to be able to tackle this crisis, it is going to take nations, but here are 500 cities around the world that are already saying we're doing it.

"Not only are we doing it, but we're doing it in a way where we're competing against each other to see who can do it best.

"And we're doing that for our own economics, to be able to attract the talent and the companies that want to locate into different regions of this world. They're looking for places that place the quality of air and the quality of water as the key infrastructure of being a placed there. So, 'we got this', is what the message was to our nations and it's sign your papers, but we're doing it. We've been doing it and we're continuing to."

Peduto emphasized the fact that green solutions will be positive for the economy and dismissed claims that the Paris climate agreement is a "job killer." However, he also had some criticism for the Green New Deal—a proposal to address climate change popular with progressive Democrats, including members of Congress.

"Certainly there are plans out there that had come from the coast," Peduto said. "The Green New Deal, for example. But the Green New Deal does not recognize the areas that will be left behind."

"We offer our payments to the families that lose their jobs, and education. We don't have the real - that real opportunity. There are those from the coastal sites within the Democratic Party that ask, why would you want to live in a place where there are no jobs? Leave.

"Well, these people don't want to leave. This is their homes and their parents' homes and their parents' parents' homes, and they want to stay here. And they choose to live here.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the countries which participate in the Paris Agreement.

U.S. Rejoins Paris Agreement - Statista

"So what we need is a plan that recognizes the essential need to provide a just transition for the areas that are still dependent upon fossil fuels."

For Peduto, that plan is a green Marshall Plan, which the mayor said would be hugely beneficial to the "area that built America"—encompassing Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

"We are set to lose 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years in our region, 40,000 of which will come from West Virginia alone," Peduto said.

"If we were to invest into an American Marshall plan for middle America, much like we invested after World War II in Europe, we have that same opportunity in those same 10 years to create 400,000 jobs—the net effect of half a million jobs for a region that most people look to as being the area that will be hurt the most."

"So we can be proactive and we can institute a plan that helps with that transfer, or we can do nothing and we can watch our region be shut down to its knees."

Peduto spoke passionately about his city and his commitment to economic improvement through green technology. He also responded to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who cited Pittsburgh in his public opposition to the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate agreement.

"Ted Cruz went for the simple points of a very limited base that President [Donald] Trump did when he withdrew from the Paris agreement," the mayor said.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks during a press conference on the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peduto believes that green technology can be provide economic benefits to Pittsburgh and the wider region. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

"Over 70 percent of Americans believe that we need to be a part of the Paris agreement and that we have a responsibility and an obligation to the world. And that the only way we solve this crisis is by working together.

"But what he did is, he did it in a way that can call back to the history of our city and not who we are today. We're very proud of our history. And there's no doubt that in the process of building America, Pittsburgh had to sacrifice much when it came to our environment.

"And there is no doubt as a post-industrial city that we have the scars to prove it but like many post-industrial cities around the world, our economy has been able to adapt," Peduto said.

Pittsburgh's approach may be of interest to the Biden administration as the new president moves to deal with the major threat posed by climate change while balancing the economic interests of average Americans and growing demands for a Green New Deal in some quarters of his party.