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PD Editorial: Stalling globally, acting locally on climate change


As noted in our Sunday editorial, the recent Warsaw Climate Conference ended with little achieved other than an agreement by nations to work toward curbing emissions as soon as possible. Attendees also committed to meet again in Peru next year — in hopes of ironing out a climate change agreement in 2015 in Paris.

Fortunately, Sonoma County isn't waiting around for a global green light before doing something about cutting carbon-laced gases.

For those who don't recall, Sonoma County in 2005 committed to cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. This remains one of the most aggressive greenhouse-gas reduction programs in the state.

Likewise, the city of Santa Rosa in 2005 set the same goal of reducing its emissions 25 percent. But given that the city didn't get around to finalizing an action plan until last year, city officials have conceded that the 2015 goal is pretty much unattainable.

So the city is looking to moving that goal back to 2020. Sonoma County also is unlikely to meet its 2015 objectives at this point and needs to get back on track in terms of developing city-by-city plans for climate action.

In 2009, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority was formed to help coordinate county-wide climate protection efforts. But during the Great Recession and the years that followed, efforts to get communities to commit to certain greenhouse-gas reduction measures faltered.

It's important to get those efforts started again. That opportunity begins this week with a series of public workshops designed to get public input on Climate Action 2020, the county's program to cut greenhouses gases.

The first public meeting took place in Windsor on Monday. A second is scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight at Rohnert Park City Hall, followed by one at Healdsburg City Hall on Wednesday beginning at 6 p.m. Other upcoming meetings include:

; Dec. 9 at the Cotati council chambers; Dec. 10 at the Sonoma Community Center; and Dec. 11 at the Sebastopol Veterans Building.

; Jan. 7 at the Petaluma Community Center and Jan. 8 at the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department meeting room.

; The last of the workshops is planned for on Jan. 14 at the Cloverdale library. All of these meetings are scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. except for the one in Rohnert Park.

Santa Rosa's Climate Action Plan, a 231-page document, should serve as a helpful guide for communities on how to go about meeting state-mandated goals for cutting emissions.

Although the city has fallen short of its original objective, due to a combination of green energy initiatives and staff reductions due to the recession, it was able to cut its emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels.

The plan Santa Rosa approved last year calls for 114 action items that range from enforcing green building standards — something the city is already doing — to ambitious goals such as setting up a network of low-speed electric vehicles.

Eventually, cities will be encouraged to choose from a list of potential action items that would help them achieve their goals.

The climate protection authority hopes to help the cities draft action plans next year with the goal of seeing them adopted by the spring of 2015.

That, too, is aggressive. But when it comes to climate action, it's becoming more apparent that acting slowly is not an option while acting locally may be the best hope for change.