City Council to brainstorm ways to reach goals of Climate Action Plan

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Tracy Lam/File

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At a special meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will brainstorm methods to curb the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in light of a report that found the city is not on track to reach its reduction goals by 2020.

The Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2009, aims to reduce Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent from their 2000 levels by the year 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. According to the report, which uses data from 2013, emissions levels are about 19 percent higher than the intended target for that year.

“The important message is that the Berkeley community has achieved significant progress in reducing emissions,” said Timothy Burroughs, assistant to the city manager and co-author of the report. “We are down 9 percent from 2000 levels. That being said, we have a lot of work to do.”

According to Burroughs, energy consumption in Berkeley has decreased by 16 percent despite a population increase of 14 percent. He added that no other city in the United States has been able to claim such a drop in energy consumption coinciding with population growth.

Burroughs attributes much of the success of the Climate Action Plan to the efforts of Berkeley residents and businesses.

“Residents are the ones who choose to reduce consumption and conserve energy. The role of the city is to make that choice as easy as possible,” Burroughs said. “There’s a lot of ownership in the community for the implementation of the Climate Action Plan.”

Burrough noted that residents and local businesses have invested in solar energy and efficient appliances such as those from Energy Star. The report included other actions from residents such as commuting to work by foot or electric vehicles.

“An electric vehicle is an appliance — it’s like a huge toaster,” said Daniel Kammen, director of the campus’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. “Once you get over the first cost issue, then you just need to take care of electricity. Over time, that leads to a large reduction in cost.”

According to Kammen, transportation accounts for 55 percent of city emissions. As part of its ongoing plan, the city is trying to facilitate alternatives to commuting by car to work or school, especially by focusing on building living units in transit corridors Downtown. City officials are encouraging residents to use public transportation, bike or work from home.

“The tool that is most important in trying to reduce transportation is land-use planning,” said Steven Weissman, director of the energy program in the campus’s Center for Law, Energy and Environment. “This means increasing density, especially near transit stations. … We want to increase the ability for people to live and work near public transportation.”

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].