October 16, 2021
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Sebastopol endorses climate action platform

By: Brandon McCapes
March 5, 2021

The City of Sebastopol will add its voice alongside over 700 governmental and nonprofit agencies in endorsing a climate action initiative associated with the statewide climate advocacy group Climate Center.

The Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously to adopt the resolution, which will pressure state lawmakers to take more serious climate action measures, outlined in a four-point plan designed by the Climate Center, at their regular meeting March 2.

The Climate Center is a statewide non-governmental organization, which, among other accomplishments, has worked to expand community choice energy access through organizations like Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Energy. Through community choice energy organizations, which source renewable forms of energy, communities enrolled are able to ensure more of their electricity bill is going towards green power over fossil fuels.

According to the Climate Center website, the organization has helped to provide 11,000,000 Californians with access to community choice energy, boasting 88-percent fossil-free power through such organizations across the state.

Climate Center board member and former Sebastopol Mayor Larry Robinson, who presented the initiative to the city council, said Climate Center, having been successful in developing and expanding the community choice energy model, is now redirecting its efforts towards pressuring California state legislators to enact even more proactive climate action policies.

“California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and as California goes, America goes. We’re at a critical juncture where the world is looking for leadership in solving the leadership and we can set an example here in California,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that by joining other elected and non-profit organizations that have already adopted the initiative, the City of Sebastopol would be adding its voice to demand the state take climate action even further than its current suggestion for carbon neutrality by 2045. Robinson said that the necessity of climate action, evidenced in part by recent excessive heat and fires, requires more action from the state, which he said has been curtailed by political expediency.

The resolution will signal to state legislators to take climate action more seriously. Climate researchers, Robinson said, initially underestimated how quickly climate change would descend, and policy should be based on the newest developments. Since things have escalated more dramatically than expected, more dramatic policy responses are merited.

Also important to the platform is proactively ensuring a just transition for fossil fuel workers and low-income or BIPOC communities, which may otherwise experience a disproportionate negative impact from climate action policies.

The four-point plan consists of the following:

1: Accelerating the phasing out of fossil fuels. The initiative calls for a halt to all new oil and gas drilling as well as capping old wells. All transportation should be carbon neutral by 2030, as should all buildings run on electricity instead of natural gas. A decentralized, 100-percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-free electricity and energy storage infrastructure should be in place by 2030.

2: Increase sequestration and drawdown of carbon already in the atmosphere by changing farming and land use practices and protecting the habitat.

3: Invest in community resiliency to prevent future events such as the public safety power shut offs during fire season. Two bills currently in committee at the state legislature, SB 99 and SB 325, would work towards energy resilience, in part through micro-grids to protect vital services.

4: Invest $12-24 billion in climate action through the establishment of fees such as the frequent flyer fee, which would raise $2.4 billion by charging a $10 fee on some flights. Additionally, opening energy markets to private investment and enacting progressive carbon taxes.

Robinson said that although Sebastopol has worked hard towards climate action goals, collective action is needed at the state level.

Councilmember Diana Rich, who introduced the resolution alongside Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney, said, “We in Sebastopol have a tradition of being forward facing in terms of climate change issues. We don’t sit back in the shadows. We are very active in our efforts to address this issue—we approach it with a sense of urgency.”

The resolution was endorsed by the city’s Climate Action Committee, which Rich called “an amazing group of citizens.”

The initiative was introduced in coordination with the Regional Climate Protection Agency (RCPA), to which Vice Mayor Gurney is the City of Sebastopol’s representative.