Margaret Pageler - Leadership in water and environmental sustainability
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ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability

ICLEI ExCom at work, 2005

ICLEI was formed in 1991 in preparation for the Rio Summit on Sustainability. ICLEI founders saw the need for city governments to have a voice in the international dialogue on environmental protection. ICLEI's acronym stands for “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.” ICLEI's members are over 1,000 cities and local jurisdictions worldwide, who participate in a variety of environmental initiatives – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity, conserving water, purchasing and building sustainably. ICLEI’s website is

Margaret Pageler introduced Seattle to ICLEI in 1997, through legislation committing the city to participate in ICLEI's Climate Protection Campaign. Margaret was elected to the Executive Committee of ICLEI in 2003, and served till 2012 as a member on the international board. As an ICLEI ExCom member, Margaret has shared Seattle's best practices with other cities around the world. In global forums, she champions the role of city governments in achieving essential sustainability targets.

ICLEI Executive Committee Report, 2003-2005

ICLEI - Background and Seattle Perspective

2003-2006 Executive Committee Statement

Water Resource Management

Sustainability (Local Agenda 21)

Climate Protection

2006-2009 Executive Committee Statement

2003-2006 Executive Committee Statement

Like ICLEI leaders worldwide, I am passionate about governing through policies that both protect our people and our earth, air and water. Through ICLEI, we learn from and support each other in making local progress. I believe the U.S. has a special responsibility to solve the global environmental challenges that our wasteful ways have helped create.

As Seattle's senior councilmember, I delivered leadership on an array of environmental programs for 12 years, winning the Municipal League's 2001 Regional Leadership award.

Seattle is widely recognized as a leading U.S. city taking climate change seriously, earning one of EPA's 2003 Climate Protection Awards, and winning the honor of hosting ICLEI's 2002 Cities for Climate Protection National Workshop. I introduced Seattle to the global warming issue, linked the city with ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection, and called for an inventory of municipal greenhouse gas emissions. Largely through actions of Seattle's municipal utilities, for which I have been responsible, Seattle's 2000 corporate emissions are 60% below 1990 levels.

Similarly, under my leadership, Seattle's water conservation programs have reduced water use to 1970 levels, despite 20% population growth.

Sharing achievements and learning from others is important to me. As an advocate of municipal solutions, I made recent presentations at the International Water Association (Berlin 2001), ICLEI Local Government Session (Johannesburg 2002) and Third World Water Forum (Osaka 2003). I was the only Seattle representative at Johannesburg, attending at my personal expense.

I believe ICLEI can leverage global Millennium Declaration commitments to increase international support for local sustainability and water resource initiatives. I have strong connections with the International Water Association that may help ICLEI expand the Water Campaign to American cities and also reach out to developing countries. My strategic problem-solving skills and successful inter-governmental collaboration will help ICLEI achieve these goals.

Description of Background

Born and raised in China and Taiwan, I am an internationalist - an interest supported by Seattle's active Sister City program and my personal travels abroad.

As a practicing attorney (UChicago Law School 1980) and community activist, I focused on urban planning and growth management initiatives. As a 12-year Seattle Councilmember, I have provided Seattle tangible accomplishments in climate protection, Local Agenda 21, and water resource management. I have chaired City Council committees overseeing Seattle City Light, our electrical utility, and Seattle Public Utilities for water, sewer and garbage functions. Other achievements include:

  • Creating Seattle's Office of Environmental Management "greening" city policies and facilities;
  • Launching Seattle's eco-procurement policies;
  • Reducing City vehicle emissions;
  • Representing local cities on Washington State Board of Health;
  • Chairing Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, a regional regulatory authority;
  • Coordinating water resource management and Seattle-regional salmon recovery strategies, specifically by creating consortiums of local authorities which develop and implement river-basin schemes; and
  • Key leader in metropolitan-wide integrated resource management as we seek to provide water supply and stormwater services while restoring endangered salmon runs.

    Past Elected or Staff Positions

  • Association of Washington Cities, Executive Board, 1999-present
  • State Board of Health, member representing cities and towns, 1995-2002
  • Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Board Chair, 1999-2001
  • Puget Sound Regional Council, Growth Policy Committee, 1995-present
  • Public Health - Seattle, King County, board member 1995-present
  • Seattle Water System Operating Board, Chair, 2002-present
  • Lake Washington Watershed, Steering Committee co-chair, 2000-present
  • King County Growth Management Policy Committee, member 1995-99
  • Regional Water Quality Committee, member, 1996-present
  • National League of Cities, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, member 2000-present
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    Water Resource Management

    The City of Seattle has inaugurated the key elements of the Water Campaign under Margaret Pageler's leadership. Councilmember Pageler chairs the Council's Water and Health Committee, responsible for water, wastewater, stormwater and other services.

    In 1999, Councilmember Pageler envisioned and helped launch regional water supply planning, convening the first meetings of the 158 water supply authorities that serve the greater Seattle metropolitan area. These utilities are now linked in a strategic web that is increasingly committed to promoting water conservation and protecting fish as well as providing efficient, reliable municipal water service.

    Seattle's own municipal water system, which serves 1.3 million people, meets exceptional standards for water quality, conservation, and environmental protection. Councilmember Pageler commissioned a strategic analysis of water use in 1996 called the Conservation Potential Assessment. This analysis served as the basis for the "1% Program" - a commitment to cut water waste by conserving 1% per person per year for ten years. The Seattle system has exceeded that goal, and notwithstanding 20% population growth, now uses less water than in 1972.

    Seattle's primary drinking water source is a mountain reservoir surrounded by an immense undeveloped forest. Councilmember Pageler supported City efforts to secure all the land in the reservoir catchment area and place it permanently in protected reserve. A comprehensive watershed plan protects many species of endangered fish, birds and wildlife.

    Chinook salmon which migrate through Seattle's waterways, along City shorelines and up into the protected watershed to spawn, were declared endangered in 1999. Margaret Pageler helped develop the intergovernmental compacts that bring together scores of cities, towns and government authorities in the metropolitan area to work for salmon protection. Each of the river basins now has its own shared funding and strategy to recover salmon stocks, starting with Chinook. Margaret works closely with colleagues across the region to protect aquatic habitat in this fast-growing area.

    Councilmember Pageler is a leader in ensuring that the City's water resource decisions provide ample flows for fish. Seattle's hydropower operations on the Skagit River, water supply intakes on the Tolt and Cedar Rivers, and urban creeks and stormwater strategies all focus on fish first. Salmon returns to the Skagit River in 2001 and 2002 were more abundant than any time since the 1930's.

    The City of Seattle works to reduce pollution of streams and other receiving waters. Stormwater management systems in Seattle are being redesigned so that more rainfall is absorbed into the urban soils to sustain creek levels and filter pollutants.

    An enthusiastic gardener, Margaret Pageler launched a campaign to engage home gardeners in water-efficient lawn care, pesticide reduction, soil replenishment, and appropriate water-side plantings. Called "Salmon-Friendly Gardening," this partnership with local garden stores and landscapers has helped change regional standards and practices. And it protects fish.

    For Seattle's celebration of Y2K, a Millenium Creeks Initiative focused City resources on urban creeks. Thousands of volunteers turned out to restore degraded streams. Ongoing volunteer work, education programs, acquisition and protection of critical habitat, and regulatory improvements are paying off in healthy waterways.

    Environmental education around water resources includes annual release of salmon fry by schoolchildren and field trips to the new Cedar River Watershed Education Center which Margaret Pageler worked hard to develop.

    In 2000, Councilmember Pageler launched the City's commitment to dramatically reduce pesticide applications in City parks, golf courses, and landscape maintenance, phasing out the most dangerous products altogether.

    At the International Water Association in Berlin in 2001, Councilmember Pageler presented a paper comparing the integrated water resource management that is being achieved voluntarily in the Seattle area with the scheme envisioned by the European Framework Directive. Margaret has become familiar with water and wastewater needs and solutions in many parts of the world, particularly the developing world.

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    Sustainability (Local Agenda 21)

    The City of Seattle works for sustainable development at the local and regional level, in a program that parallels Local Agenda 21. The City Council endorsed the Earth Charter in a 2002 resolution.

    Councilmember Margaret Pageler promoted two growth management ballot initiatives before her election to the Seattle City Council in 1991. She then participated in implementing the Washington State Growth Management Act which resulted from those grass roots efforts.

    Councilmember Pageler served on a countywide council which adopted growth management planning targets and strategies aimed at concentrating growth in urban areas, reducing sprawl, and providing transportation choices. She helped develop the benchmarking indices to measure progress on the goals, building on a sustainability index developed by Richard Conlin who has since joined the City Council.

    Within the City limits, a comprehensive plan was adopted to ensure that growth could be absorbed in the central City. Councilmember Pageler worked closely with a 72,000-resident section of the City that did detailed planning for five high-density mixed-use "urban villages." The principles of the Comprehensive Plan for Seattle, adopted in 1996, are the Local Action 21 principles of environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and security, and social equity.

    In 1997, Margaret Pageler created the City's Office of Environmental Management which ensures that environmental standards are incorporated in all municipal decisions and operations. The municipal auto shops, paint shops and the like had their first environmental audits because of Margaret's initiative. The City has recycled more waste, upgraded its facilities for energy and water efficiency, and reduced its use of pesticides dramatically as a result of this program.

    Eco-procurement and sustainable building practices are important City of Seattle policies. Councilmember Pageler sponsored the first ventures, which have now become major City initiatives. The city buys recycled-content paper, sustainably-harvested wood products, and least-toxic landscaping products. We are working to eliminate mercury and other bioaccumulative toxins.

    Sustainable transportation is a cornerstone of Seattle's growth policy. The City subsidizes a range of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies including carpooling, parking controls and pricing, traffic calming, cycling and pedestrian improvements and the highly-successful Flexcar, a shared auto program. City development standards require new projects to incorporate non-car-based alternatives. One result is the U-Pass, a University of Washington multi-use permit that was developed by Heidi Wills, now also a Seattle councilmember, to substantially increase transit usage by students and faculty.

    Recognizing that communities of poverty are often located in areas of pollution and stress, Councilmember Pageler used her position on the Washington State Board of Health to enact policies on environmental justice. Her Health Board work also addressed ethnic disparities in health outcomes, especially infant mortality, asthma, and addictions. She has effectively directed strategic resources to tackle those problems.

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    Climate Protection

    The City of Seattle first joined the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign in early 1997 thanks to legislation sponsored by Councilmember Margaret Pageler, who chaired the City Council's committee on Utilities and Environmental Management. Margaret was a founding member of the Northwest Climate Change Alliance and she made this an issue of focus for city government.

    Since then, Seattle has become widely recognized nationally and internationally as one of the leading US cities taking serious measures to tackle climate change. For example, Seattle's leadership in climate protection earned it one of EPA's 2003 Climate Protection Award, one of 13 organizations, individuals and communities internationally to receive the award.

    Because of Seattle's experience and leadership in climate protection, ICLEI selected Seattle to host the 2002 annual Cities for Climate Protection National Workshop, an event that elicited comments like "best ever" from ICLEI staff and CCP participants alike. It was also in 2002 that Seattle was awarded the CCP's fourth "star", representing the fourth milestone in measuring tangible progress toward climate protection.

    The City of Seattle is committed to tackling global climate change as a profoundly local issue. Some of the specific actions taken by Seattle:

  • In 1997, Councilmember Pageler secured more than a million dollars in City funds for energy conservation projects in City facilities. As a result, Seattle was among the first large cities in the country to convert our traffic signals to LEDs, saving millions of kilowatt hours. Today, nearly all of Seattle's large municipal offices, shops, garages, etc. have been retrofitted with high efficiency lighting. Energy savings from this program were estimated to be 6.4 million kWh in 2001 - equivalent to taking 551 vehicles off the road for a year.

  • In 2001, the City decided to meet all of Seattle City Light's electric power needs with no net greenhouse emissions. We are meeting this commitment to no net greenhouse pollution with our existing hydroelectric facilities, new renewables like wind and continued aggressive investment in our internationally recognized conservation programs. City Light is obligated to mitigate for all greenhouse gas emissions - becoming the first large electric utility in the country to commit to being climate neutral. Councilmember Heidi Wills, who now chairs the Council's Energy and Environmental Policy Committee, spearheads this initiative.

  • In 2002, the City completed its inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, both for its corporate emissions and for the community emissions. The inventory of corporate emissions shows that through City Light's actions, changes in solid waste management and banning logging in its 96,000 acre watershed, the City's 2000 emissions are 60% below 1990 levels.

  • Seattle is the first City in the country to decide that all our new and renovated City facilities will be sustainable - designed and built to a Silver LEED standard. City of Seattle facilities will be among the most energy efficient in the nation, and many will have green roofs for rainwater absorption. Councilmember Richard Conlin promoted this policy. Among the new municipal buildings either completed or under construction are a new central library, City Hall, Justice Center, Opera House, water treatment plant and a number of branch libraries and community centers.

  • The City's convenient curbside recyling program is estimated to have avoided more than 535,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2000. Seattle was one of the first cities to adopt solid waste rates that provide our residents and businesses a strong motivation to reduce waste. Councilmember Pageler is supporting a new set of strategies to achieve a 60% recycling goal.

  • The City fleet is also a key part of our energy conservation and emissions reduction program. The City fleet now includes 35 hybrid electric cars with more to be added every year. Ten Segways (battery operated personal mobility vehicles) have been purchased to replace cars used to read water meters. Margaret Pageler personally drives a hybrid electric car.

  • Seattle is a long time partner in the ICLEI Climate Wise program. Through this effort, Seattle City Light partners with commercial and industrial customers to identify greehouse gas emission reduction strategies. Over the last few years, over 35 business partners have been recruited to reduce their CO2 emissions as well as reduce their energy consumption.

  • Councilmember Pageler chaired the board of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, a regional regulatory authority, for three years. Puget Sound Clean Air partners with businesses and local governments on programs to reduce emissions in fleets of cars, buses, trucks and heavy equipment, even working to clean up lawnmowers. The Clean Diesel Initiative is providing ultra-low sulfur diesel to retrofitted schools buses, garbage trucks and other heavy vehicles in the four-country metropolitan agency. Councilmember Pageler presented this program at ICLEI's Johannesburg conference in September 2002.

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    Margaret Pageler.

    Margaret Pageler