Local environmental advisory commission considers ban on diesel sales

Ruby Sapia/Staff

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The Community Environmental Advisory Commission, or CEAC, for the city of Berkeley may recommend adopting aggressive policies aimed at reaching carbon neutrality — the legislation, however, would not go into effect for over 25 years if enacted.

2045 would be the intended start date for the policies that dominated CEAC’s meeting Thursday. Proposals have been drafted for two pieces of legislation: the banning of gasoline and diesel sales within the city of Berkeley, and the prohibition of combustion vehicles on city roads. The CEAC will vote in the coming meetings on whether or not to send the proposals to the City Council.

The 2045 date of implementation for the prohibition and ban is just five years before the state of California hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 80 percent by 2050.

“I picked 2045 as the initial target because it aligned with the city’s carbon neutrality goal, it gives people enough time to adjust, but not too much time,” said Ben Gould, CEAC chairperson, who authored the proposals. “I think it’s a feasible goal, but still will push us to work better.”

The prohibition of combustion vehicles on city streets, Gould was careful to specify, would not make it illegal to drive combustion vehicles. Rather, it would institute an extra fee on combustion vehicles that would not be extended to their electric counterparts. The reason for this, Gould said, was that it would make the legislation “much more survivable” if contested in courts. Contestation, the commission anticipated, is very likely — particularly from oil companies.

One 2015 report suggested that in order to avoid an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius in global temperatures — the line in the sand set by scientists and the Paris Agreement – greenhouse gas emissions would need to drop by 70 to 95 percent globally by 2050. A more recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, report argues, however, that much more drastic action is necessary.

The IPCC’s 2018 report argued that in order to avoid a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase, carbon neutrality must be reached within less than 15 years. The CEAC’s legislative proposals, if adopted, would not take effect until over ten years after the end of the period set by the IPCC.

“Personally I think we should move as quickly as we can, and that’s one of the challenges in crafting this kind of policy — it’s about how quickly can we move, while at the same time, we have to actually be able to get it moving forward,” Gould said. “This would give the automakers and the public 10 years to figure out how to make EVs work, and then we’re full steam ahead.”

Ben Klein is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc‏.