It is clearer today more than ever that the battle to stop climate change must be fought at the state and local levels.
In Sonoma County, a leader in this fight is the Regional Climate Protection Authority. We represent our cities and towns in Sonoma County that have been working toward meaningful climate action. In 2014, our efforts were recognized when President Barack Obama designated the Regional Climate Protection Authority as one of fewer than a dozen national “Climate Action Champions.”
Our residents want a future that is environmentally and economically sound. In a county with many small jurisdictions, the Regional Climate Protection Authority looks for efficient ways to act locally on climate change by prioritizing actions, standardizing greenhouse gas analysis and giving local government a better way to track our progress. An important component of our efforts is our climate action plan. As discussed in a recent article (“Sonoma County’s climate action plan blocked in court ruling,” July 28), our fight for climate protection received a recent setback by a lawsuit, ironically challenging the plan on environmental grounds.
We want to set the record straight. The climate action plan is an important component of our fight against climate change. This voluntary effort was made possible by a one-time grant that helped forge better understanding among local governments about what we can do to reduce emissions beyond the goals established by the state. We used the best tools and experts — along with significant local input — to create a plan that provides a path to a better future.
The lawsuit against the plan argues for a growth moratorium and detailed analysis of “life cycle” emissions for wine and tourism. This moratorium is not legally enforceable, and the technical tools to perform the analysis simply do not exist.
Additionally, the suit focuses only on new development when that is only 5 percent of the problem. The real challenge is to retrofit existing buildings and replace cars with carbon-free alternatives. That said, the plan provides an opportunity for new projects to be consistent with our greenhouse gas-reduction goals. In reality, the lawsuit cynically asserts that not having a plan is better than the Regional Climate Protection Authority proposed protections.
This decision could not come at a worse time as the costs of delay and inaction put our planet at risk at the same time the federal government is moving in the opposite direction. Our local climate is predicted to be hotter and more prone to droughts and floods in the coming decades. The plan remains an important resource for steps to reduce greenhouse gas and complements the many efforts by our stakeholders in Sonoma County to build a carbon-free economy.
We need to increase our efforts to reduce emissions now. As we fight this local legal battle, more than 42 percent of California cities and counties have already adopted climate or sustainability plans that help them get a handle on local contributions to climate change and establish ways to take action. These cities have utilized the same approach as our plan and are pursuing many of the same opportunities: smart land use, carbon-free buildings and vehicles and reducing waste.
Sonoma County is a proven leader in climate action with local renewable power, electric vehicles and research into the impacts of climate change. Local governments have an ongoing role to play, just like California has a role, and without a road map, we will face greater challenges to implementing greenhouse gas-reducing measures in coordinated and cost-effective ways.