Bates Unveils Climate Action Plan to Reduce City Emissions

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday January 29, 2008

In a made-for-TV moment, under blue skies and beside a sparkling bay at Shorebird Park, Mayor Tom Bates rolled out the draft Climate Action Plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050—fulfilling the goals of Measure G, approved by Berkeley voters in 2004. 

The mayor told the gathering of community and press that Berkeley, one of three cities with the largest number of rooftop solar collectors in the country, has already begun to reduce its carbon footprint. 

“We reduced our greenhouse gases by 9 percent between 2000 and 2004,” said Bates, who had come from city hall to the event in an AC Transit fuel-cell powered bus.  

Bates lauded the plan, which will have cost more than $200,000 by the time it is approved in April. It was written by Climate Change Coordinator Timothy Burroughs and the city’s Energy & Sustainable Development staff and taken to a number of city commissions and to the business community for input.  

“This has gotten more scrutiny than any plan” developed by the city, Bates said, noting that the plan will remain a draft until the City Council approves it in the spring. The public will be able to send comments on an interactive website at www.berkeleyclimateaction.org until March 7. 

Staff will present the draft plan to the City Council at a 5 p.m. workshop today (Tuesday). 

The plan aims at making all structures in Berkeley achieve a net zero energy consumption level by increasing efficiency and shifting to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 

By 2050 most people in Berkeley will be walking, biking or using public transit—personal vehicles will run on alternative fuel cells or electricity, the plan says. 

It further states that to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction goal, there must be zero waste sent to landfills and most food consumed in Berkeley will be produced within a few hundred miles of the city. 

When Bates took questions from the press and community, he was asked about the role of the development of biofuels in Berkeley’s future and the growing concern that producing agricultural products for biofuels has removed a food source from people in developing nations.  

Bates lauded the city’s use of biodiesel—its truck fleet uses 20 percent biodiesel made mostly from used vegetable oil. He pleaded ignorance, however, to the rest of the question: “I’m not an expert in biofuels,” the mayor said, explaining that he did not know anything about biofuels production in developing countries. 

Dan Kammen, director of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, an advisor on the plan who spoke to the gathering after the mayor, helped the mayor with a response. He said he was aware of the controversy surrounding biofuels production, but noted that biofuels can be sourced from algae, which would not disrupt food production. He also said more can be done to fund agriculture in developing countries to blunt the negative impact of biofuels production. 

Community member Juliet Lamont told the mayor she hoped the plan would include protection for wildlife habitat and riparian corridors.  

“We want to look at all these things,” Bates responded. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, often at odds with Bates, stood behind the mayor holding the plan’s “join the movement to reduce greenhouse gas” banner, during the presentation.  

After the speeches, Worthington told the Planet: “We need an action plan—some ideas didn’t make it into the plan.” That includes consideration of the impacts of the University of California and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, which the plan does not address, Worthington said, and “it doesn’t include eco-passes,” which are public transit passes paid for by an employer or school and free for use by workers and students. 

It should also include very simple ideas such as mandating recycling in apartments, which are now left out of the city’s recycling efforts, Worthington said. 

The plan, however, says specific actions will be costly and “necessitate additional resources and sustained coordination across sectors.”