Climate Action Plan: Pleased But Not Satisfied

Published Sunday, January 22, 2012

Michael Levy and Micah Posner

Santa Cruz in 2112 from rising sea levels
Santa Cruz in 2112 from rising sea levels

When the first draft of the City's Climate Action Plan (CAP) came out, environmentalists (including leaders from People Power, Transition Santa Cruz, and Ecology Action), reviewed it and suggested revisions to the document in an attempt to make it cohesive and specific. We are pleased that the latest draft of the plan has many great—and greatly specific—actions to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions. Some will be easy to enact; others will be quite challenging. How serious are we? How well will we carry them out? It's up to the City Council, as the elected body responsible for directing City staff, to insure that the goals of the CAP are taken into account with every decision from here on out. Reading the draft document, it is not yet clear that this is what the City intends to do.

Specifically, the framework set out in the document does not guarantee implementation of the CAP. There is no provision to include citizen oversight of the plan—a critical element given the workload of city staff. And, with car traffic accounting for roughly half of emissions in Santa Cruz County, there is no commitment to tie the key goal of reducing automobile trips to other city planning processes. As it is currently written, the CAP would call for reducing such trips while other city projects support their increase.

2012 could be remembered by future generations as the year that engaged citizens made it clear that we will not tolerate the business-as-usual approach that continues to ruin the climate. For this turnaround to happen, however, we will all need to stretch beyond our comfort zones. This includes City Council members who need to make two significant changes to the CAP to insure implementation:

  1. Plan for fewer car trips. The CAP's first draft called for a 30% reduction in car trips by 2020. The new draft lowers that number to 10%. This is in addition to CO2 reductions based on higher efficiency and electric vehicles. To achieve this goal, city planning for automobile traffic reduction must be consstent. For example, spending millions of dollars to widen roads contradicts the goal of 10% less automobile traffic. If we are planning on MORE trips via alternative transit, we should devote resources to that.
  2. Assure implementation of the CAP through community oversight. The CAP includes a number of good proposals for involving the community in carbon reduction. But it doesn't provide for any sort of citizens' commission to provide regular input and monitor how the CAP is being carried out. The staff and City Council will need the perspective of thoughtful bike and bus advocates, drivers, pedestrians, homeowners, renters, builders, and others in order for the Plan to succeed.

The City Council will hold a workshop on the CAP during their meeting on Tuesday, January 24 at 7pm. On Thursday, January 19, People Power and Transition Santa Cruz will host a public meeting to help formulate a community response to the CAP. We invite all interested to attend at 7pm at the Ecology Action office, 877 Cedar Street. THEN, join us for the Underwater Tour of Santa Cruz on January 24.

Map of Santa Cruz.  Light blue represents 100-year flood.  Dark blue represents sea level rise of 55 inches.
Map of Santa Cruz. Light blue represents 100-year flood. Dark blue represents sea level rise of 55 inches.