Berkeley commits to 100 percent renewable energy, net-zero carbon emissions

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Mayor Jesse Arreguín recently pledged Berkeley’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Arreguín announced these goals Sept. 13 at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The new commitments are part of Berkeley’s effort to create concrete goals in line with the 2016 Paris climate agreement. President Donald Trump officially withdrew the U.S. from the accord last year.

“Climate change poses a serious threat to our residents, environment, infrastructure and quality of life and calls for immediate action from local, state and federal governments,” Arreguín said in a press release.

The announcement comes days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation pledging 100 percent clean energy use in California by 2045 and the University of California upgraded its Carbon Neutrality Initiative — committing to 100 percent clean electricity use by 2025 and reducing energy use by 2 percent each year.

Berkeley also signed onto an initiative providing greater access to energy-efficient cars and infrastructure at a lower cost, according to the press release. Berkeley and Oakland, along with other Bay Area cities, are calling to end coal shipments throughout their jurisdictions.

These pledges build upon Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan — the city’s vision to reach net-zero energy use for all buildings by 2050 and prioritize sustainable forms of transportation, such as walking, cycling and public transportation.

Berkeley has made significant progress in its climate plan by requiring building owners to assess their energy use, according to the press release.

“I would say it’s a good step forward, but based on the science, (it) is not ambitious enough,” said Rand Wrobel, a spokesperson for environmental organization 350 Bay Area.

Patrick Jurney, CalPIRG organizer at UC Berkeley, said he was excited about Berkeley’s commitment to push further than California’s latest signed legislation. He added that it is “important” for a city like Berkeley to make these types of goals.

Berkeley’s new initiatives are “great steps in the right direction,” Wrobel said. It is possible for the city to achieve them, he added, especially with its participation in an energy program known as Community Choice Energy, which allows local governments to buy and sell energy — an option that is often cleaner and cheaper for local residents.

Wrobel also said another way to reduce Berkeley’s carbon footprint is to take “innovative” action to provide the necessary infrastructure for charging electric vehicles. Berkeley’s priority should be providing charging stations for electric vehicle owners who do not have garages or driveways, he added.

“By making these commitments, the City of Berkeley is prioritizing working toward reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and moving toward a carbon-free future,” Arreguín said in the press release.

Contact Alyssa Bernardino and Sarah Chung at [email protected].