Berkeley Adopts Climate Action Plan

By Published On: May 8, 2009

Berkeley politics are notoriously controversial. The city’s new Climate Action Plan is no exception, even though two years ago 81 percent of Berkeley voters approved the plan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. Berkeley is the first city in the nation to develop a climate protection plan of this magnitude. The city hopes to use its carbon reduction blueprint to leverage federal stimulus dollars. After two public hearings that generated enough hot air to power city offices for a year, the city council May 5 approved the third draft of the plan with numerous amendments to alleviate constituents’ concerns. Some Berkeley property owners called on the city to prepare a full state Environmental Impact Report. Officials said an EIR isn’t necessary because the plan was designed to have positive rather than negative environmental impacts. Berkeley outlines a roadmap with policy goals and a toolkit of strategies to achieve them. However, the city council would have to approve specific programs to implement them. The city’s emissions measured 576,000 metric tons in 2005, the last year for which figures are available. The plan calls for reducing Berkeley’s carbon emissions 33 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Berkeley is already achieving the plan’s 2 percent annual emissions reduction goal, said councilmember Kriss Worthington. The city decreased its greenhouse gas emissions almost nine percent between 2000 and 2005. Fifty percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Hence the plan aims to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and low-carbon fuels, and create incentives for Berkeley residents to buy hybrids and electric cars. It seeks to reduce vehicle miles traveled and provide alternatives, including increasing use of public transit, car pools and bicycle and pedestrian pathways. The plan strives to reduce fossil-fuel energy use in Berkeley homes, agencies and businesses through energy efficiency retrofits and greater reliance on solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources. It also aims to achieve zero net energy consumption in new buildings by 2020 and in all Berkeley buildings by 2050. The plan promotes “smart” growth and transit corridors with higher densities in downtown Berkeley. According to the smart growth principle, accommodating growth near transit corridors in Berkeley will result in an overall reduction of emissions, explained Neal DeSnoo, Berkeley energy commission secretary.

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