Natchez And Vidalia Mayors To Attend Paris Conference On Climate

NATCHEZ, MS (AP) — The mayors of Natchez and Vidalia, Louisiana, will travel to France in December for a global climate change conference.

         Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland were selected by the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative to attend COP21 in Paris. COP21 is the United Nation climate change initiative aimed at achieving a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

         The Natchez Democrat’s Lindsey Shelton reports Copeland will lead the delegation of seven mayors to Paris along with fellow MRCTI co-chair Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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         "We're not just a bunch of tree-huggers," Brown said. "We're talking about the effects of climate change on the river, a serious issue. In 2011, we had a 500-year flood? and the next year, we had a 500-year drought. Climate has everything to do with it. Those issues affect each and every one of us whether we like to think about it or not. We are affected here in Natchez, Mississippi."

         Climate change is believed to be responsible for increased natural disasters, including droughts and floods.

         Copeland said those types of events have a significant effect on the world's rivers.

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         The MRCTI is a coalition of mayors along the river aimed at creating a unified voice for the Mississippi River. At the MRCTI annual meeting earlier this month, the mayors vowed to make clean water and sustainable development of the Mississippi River valley their top priorities.

         The primary issue MRCTI aims to discuss at the conference is the preservation of Mississippi River watershed food production and the impact climate change has on food production on river plains, Copeland said.

         "The Mississippi River is No. 1 in food production as far as the rest of the rivers," Copeland said. "We're going to be sitting down with countries that have major rivers and work together. It's very important we sit down and talk about these issues."

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         MRCTI has partnered with the Walmart Foundation, major grain shippers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others in finding solutions for the impact of climate change on the river.

         "All these folks have a direct involvement in ensuring the health of the Mississippi River," Brown said. "We're being brought together, this group of mayors and partners, to discuss the international watersheds and what's being done to ensure those watersheds can feed people into the next century."

         Brown and Copeland said they both feel it is a tremendous honor to represent the Miss-Lou on an international stage for such important issues.

         "I think it's an honor for our area to have two mayors represent our region on these issues that will affect the world," Copeland said.

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