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Greenhouse gas reduction efforts

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
March 30, 2018

The Cotati City Council reaffirmed their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases when they voted Tuesday to adopt a resolution reaffirming their work to reduce GHG in coordination with the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority. The agenda item action also cements several local measures that would work to reduce GHG, such as increasing building energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy use, increasing recycled water use and increasing vehicle and equipment fuel efficiency, just to name a few.

After the enactment of California Senate Bill 32, the 2016 legislation that aims to combat climate change, the state is now required to meet a lofty greenhouse gas reduction target by 2030 and this target is to get emissions down to a whopping 40 percent below 1990 levels.

While Cotati may not be able to reach such rigorous goals as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for throughout the state, they certainly want to do their share in making Cotati a more green and environmentally friendly city. 

Even though the City of Cotati has some of the lowest levels of energy and water use in the county, with the usage of only 395 therms of natural gas, 6,051 kWh of electricity and 60,624 gallons of water, most residents use a car to get to work and only 10 percent made use of carpooling in 2010, resulting in more cars and emissions on the roads, according to the Climate Action 2020 document. And according to 2010 figures, only two percent took the bus.

“With the average trip to work for residents of Cotati taking 26.9 minutes and limited bus service, riding a bus is not a viable option for many Cotati residents,” the document states, citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Hence, most of the city’s GHG emissions come from fossil fuels from cars and light-duty vehicles, with 63 percent of GHG’s coming from on-road transportation, according to Climate Action 2020 statistics. The other large GHG emission contributor was building energy, specifically the energy used to heat local homes and businesses.

So to track these GHG emissions and come up with workable solutions to reducing emissions, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority was formed in 2009 to focus on county-wide climate protection efforts.

According to the agenda item report, “The goal of RCPA is to collaborate with local agencies on setting goals, pooling resources and formalizing partnerships to create local solutions to complement state, Federal and private sector actions to reduce emissions of GHG.”

Cotati Senior Planner, Jon-Paul Harries, also explained the function and importance of the city’s participation with the RCPA, saying that the authority can be a helping hand in tackling the daunting issue that is climate change.

“Its function is as a regional framework to create efficient, collaborative and an all-encompassing approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It helps to take it on together, we can’t all take it on,” Harries said.

Like Senate Bill 32 and its reduction measures, the Climate Action 2020 has its own climate change policy and series of reduction measures and goals for Cotati and the county. 

Most of the reduction measures aim to reduce emissions from the city’s biggest contributors, cars and building energy. According to the climate action plan, beefing up the transportation infrastructure and keeping up with transit minded development, such as a creating more bike and walking paths are part of the reduction measures.

Other reduction measures include, “Minimizing single-passenger motor vehicle use, placing restrictions on idling construction vehicles, coordinate with Sonoma State University to reduce traffic impacts, open space conservation and tree planting (when other trees are removed,” the action plan stipulates.

However, the city has already taken several similar steps in an effort to be more green. Public transit has already greatly increased with the start of the SMART train service and the Cotati train depot, as well as the park and ride.

“The majority of the measures are already in place and included in the city’s general plan so that is good,” Harries said.

City Council unanimously supported the reaffirmation of the measures and believe climate change is an important mountain to work on conquering.

Council member John Dell’Osso said of climate change, “I think when people use the phrase ‘climate change,’ it’s a very loaded phrase and lot of people can take offense to that, it’s like’ how do we known the climate is changing, isn’t it part of a natural cycle?’ And yeah, it probably is, but I think that we have exacerbated it so much,” Dell’Osso said. “For example, I just had a report come to my desk of one small example of how the climate is changing that if by the year 2050 there is no change and we don’t make any strides to reduce greenhouse gases over half of the species of birds in Pt. Reyes will be extricated. That causes great concern, are we OK with going down that road or can we make some relatively simple changes that would help this issue and not exacerbate it?”

And for councilmembers, the answer is “yes.”

Councilmember Wendy Skillman echoed Dell’Osso’s thoughts and said of the resolution, “I just appreciate that we’re very environmentally this evening.”