Pleasanton's long-term outlook for addressing climate change could entail local solutions such as the city producing its own renewable energy and investing in green infrastructure, according to local leaders and environmental activists.
An update on the city's Climate Action Plan (CAP 2.0) at last week's City Council meeting drew both praise and some detailed questions from council members. Vice Mayor Kathy Narum called the project "off to a really good start," while Councilmember Julie Testa said she was "impressed with the work that's been done."
Councilmember Karla Brown, who is soon to be sworn in as Pleasanton's new mayor, said at the Nov. 17 meeting that the city "needs to be aware of our contribution towards greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental contamination, and it is important to step up."
Despite some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city's Committee on Energy and the Environment advanced this year with making recommendations for the city's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target, vision, guiding principles, co-benefits and action criteria.
According to staff, the first CAP in 2012 called for the city to meet a GHG mass emission reduction target of 15% below the 2005 baseline by this year. An inventory in 2017 found that Pleasanton exceeded that goal, decreasing mass emissions 28%, or a 37% decrease per capita.
"We exceeded it 3 years ahead of the goal -- exceed both by mass and per capita," said Megan Campbell, associate planner for the city.
The committee has recommended the city adopt a GHG emission reduction target pathway that "sets a long-term (2045) target" based on the state's own goal of carbon neutrality in the next 25 years, and a short-term target "based on a linear trajectory of emissions reductions from 2045 back to 2020."
The recommended pathway "achieves slightly greater emissions reductions than required" by the state in 10 years. Staff support the pathway "for a variety of reasons including aligning with state targets to have a Qualified GHG Reduction Plan and the preference for metered/linear emissions reductions over time" that are more consistent.
Narum agreed with the GHG emission reduction targets proposed by the committee and said, "It's something that we probably can and will be able to reach over time."
Because carbon neutrality will likely "take years to achieve," the committee discussed "aligning with that trajectory earlier rather than later will help the community progress toward that goal and take some early actions that make achieving the goal more realistic in 25 years."
The adopted target pathway also matches those identified and Dublin's recently adopted CAP, and is the same target being considered in Livermore's draft CAP.
Staff noted, "If all three cities in the Tri-Valley are aligned in the selected pathway, this could allow for greater regional collaboration toward achieving outcomes."
The project's next phases are expected to include recommended actions the city may take to meet GHG emission reduction targets -- some of which could require public funds -- such as diversifying the city's energy sources and restoring riparian habitat areas.
Jill Buck, president of the local nonprofit Go Green Initiative, told the Weekly, "My first concern is people, so the things that would relieve any human suffering" are her top priority for the Pleasanton community, including proposed action items like adding fast EV-charging stations along transportation routes and promoting cooling centers during warmer weather months.
"The cooling centers, I think are a must -- even this past summer I think we needed them," Buck said. "I am very concerned about cooling centers because I know some of our homes don't have air conditioning, and the ones that do, not all citizens can run those. Heat-related illness and health impacts are very real, and it's very hard on our seniors, especially."
As for expanding charging stations for electric-powered vehicles, Buck envisions going further with locally produced renewable energy.
"I'd like to see the city begin to place more focus on a more localized power source, and that would give us some resiliency if our grid had problems," Buck said.
With transportation making up 56% of the city's recorded emissions, Buck said, "I do think that the EV-charging stations would make a huge difference in incentivizing people who live and who work here to invest in an electric vehicle."
Buck noted, though, that the city's next largest source of emissions is energy: "That goes back to making more renewable energy capacity in Pleasanton," Buck said. "Not only does that mean we're less reliant on fossil fuels for the energy we use, but it also gives us some energy resiliency to adapt to climate change."
Using the Amador Valley High School parking lot on Santa Rita Road with its rows of solar power panels and accompanying battery storage as an example, Buck said it's important to "not just to be putting up solar but storing some of it so it can used later" in the event of a power outage or other emergency.
In addition to searching for local solutions, the city has developed local partnerships with organizations like the Local Leaders of the 21st Century Club at both Foothill and Amador Valley high schools. Both groups have been busy creating informational videos on the CAP and climate change awareness that will be shared on the project website as part of the city's outreach plan.
"Right now they're just a couple minutes; we're working very closely with the city," Buck said. "The theme is really just getting people to think about what they love about Pleasanton and what they want to protect -- that was the subject of the first video.
"As the city progresses in its public outreach plan, our students will be working in lockstep with city staff to create more videos that go along with the themes of the outreach plan," Buck added. "We're hoping that when we can all be in person again, the students can safely set up tables at the farmers market and other places of gathering and talk to people about the CAP."
Brown said she was looking forward to when staff "will drill down exact actions that can make the biggest impact" like what to do about gas powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers which are "very large contributors" to Tri-Valley emissions.
"When we drill down to those actual actionable items, it will be exciting to see that the small changes can make the biggest improvements," Brown said.