Community sets ambitious GHG emissions reduction target
Community representatives recommend that Sonoma County reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2015
An original "White Paper" on local actions to
address climate change is available.
Sonoma County U.S. firsts:
SANTA ROSA, CaliforniaOn Saturday, May 21, 2005, the Climate Protection Campaign convened Sonoma County residents to set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. By the end of the day, 32 community members agreed that Sonoma County should reduce its emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2015, the boldest emission reduction target set by any Bay Area community to date.
Local elected officials from the County and Sonomas nine cities selected the workshop participants who included business members, civic leaders, young people, and the elected officials themselves. The County of Sonoma, Sonomas nine cities, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, and the Sonoma County Water Agency sponsored the workshop, and Rick Phillips of Sebastopol-based Community Matters facilitated the workshop.
This was an experiment to see if the community could agree on a target by the end of the day, said Climate Protection Campaign executive director Ann Hancock. We convened community representatives, presented them with the facts, facilitated their deliberation, and they did it! We are very encouraged by participants thoughtful engagement and by their ability to come to an agreement on such an important topic.
Workshop participants were charged with agreeing upon a base year, a target year, and a percent reduction. 1990 was chosen as a base year because it is the same base year decided upon for the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that went into effect on February 16, 2005. A target year of 2015 was favored because it provides Sonoma County a ten-year window to implement countywide strategies such as more efficient transportation, green building, and land use plans that lead to emission reductions.
I was skeptical going in, stated Steve Geney, President of North Bay Construction. But we focused on the facts and how to fix them. Now my gears are turning. There are many things our industry can change to do our part in meeting the target. I think it can be done.
This whole notion that reducing our emissions will cost us is a myth, noted Alan Strachan, a Santa Rosa developer and one of the workshop presenters. A decrease in greenhouse gas gets us an increase in GDP both locally and nationally. Lets quit exporting our wealth for fossil fuel when energy falls free from the sun.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the foremost scientific authority on the subject, current levels of greenhouse gases need to be reduced by 60 to 80% immediately in order to mitigate the greatest threats to our planets ecosystems, climate cycles, and human existence. These threats include rising sea levels, desertification, and more frequent severe weather events such as floods and drought.
The target recommended by the community representatives does not meet the dramatic reductions scientists call for, but the target would, if achieved, move the county much closer to where scientists say we need to be. (click for a pdf of the study1MB) Studies by the Climate Protection Campaign of greenhouse gas produced by Sonoma County residents found that between 1990 and 2000 emissions increased by 28 percentdouble the national average. The two key reasons for the increase were a rise in vehicle miles traveled of 43 percent, and in population of 18 percent.
Scientific and technological solutions exist for meeting the target, asserted Hancock. To prove this, the Campaign sent participants a white paper written by local scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to read in preparation for workshop. We wanted to assure participants that they could focus on the critical challengegenerating public willrather than on the technological aspects of climate protection. That analytical work comes after setting a target, said Hancock.
Our aim is for people in Sonoma County to achieve such resounding success that we inspire communities worldwide, said Windsor Town Council member Debora Fudge.
Sonoma County has set two national precedents for climate protection. It is the first community where 100 percent of its nine cities and the County have pledged by resolution to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the first where all municipalities have completed their baseline emission inventories for their municipal operations. Sonoma County local governments follow Cities for Climate Protection, an international program in which more than 600 local governments worldwide participate.
The emission reduction target recommended by the community representatives will be presented to the County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors and Sonomas nine city councils to consider for adoption.
For more information, please call Ann Hancock, (707) 237-2696
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