As of November 2009, at least 139 cities in the United States had climate action plans, including Portland and Chicago. Oakland doesn’t have one yet, but it does have a goal: by 2020, the city seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 36 percent of what they were in 2005. That goal is more aggressive than those of either San Francisco or Berkeley, which both have climate action plans.
Emily Kirsch, coordinator of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition, has called Oakland’s reduction target “one of the most ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction targets in any city in the United States.”
But having an ambitious goal is all well and good. Achieving it is something else again.
On Tuesday, city staff members will update
the Oakland City Council on how that plan is coming together, as well
as preview initial findings and possible policy recommendations. The
first draft of the Energy and Climate Action plan is set to be released
on Earth Day, April 22.
The key word is draft. Last month, I spoke to Garrett Fitzgerald, the city’s sustainability coordinator (and point person for the plan) for an article I wrote for Oakland North.
Mr. Fitzgerald has identified three broad categories of activities that generate emissions: transportation and land use (think cars and trucks and long commutes), building energy use (think fossil-fuel-fired power plants churning out electricity unnecessarily), and material consumption and waste reduction (think recycling). The updates to be discussed Tuesday will have specific policy recommendations for each category.
One thing to keep an eye out for is which policies, if any, require mandatory action from individuals and business owners, such as energy-efficient building retrofits.
Mr. Fitzgerald told me he was hoping to avoid any policy that would impose requirements on individuals, but it’s a real challenge to get cities to reach goals by relying on environmentally conscious early adopters alone. Whatever is proposed, it will evolve when residents weigh in.
“I’ve never seen any city develop a climate plan where the first draft becomes the final plan,” he said. “We’ve gotten a ton of community input in this process. I expect we’ll get a lot more input once we have a draft for people to react to.”