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City of Sacramento’s Climate Action Plan Strives to Achieve an 83% Reduction in 2005 GHG Emissions Levels by 2050

Monday, February 6th, 2012

On February 14, 2012, the City of Sacramento will hold a hearing to consider approving the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). (http://www.sacgp.org/cap.html.) The CAP is split into two phases. Phase 1, which was adopted in February 2010, addresses GHG emissions from internal municipal operations. Phase 2, which will be considered by the City Council for the first time during the February 14 hearing, focuses on communitywide climate change issues within the city limits of Sacramento.

The CAP sets out a goal to achieve a 15% reduction of its 2005 GHG emission levels by the year 2020. The CAP also sets long-term goals which the City is not obligated to achieve, but which the CAP states are nevertheless important to ensure that GHG emission reduction efforts continue beyond 2020. These goals are a 38% reduction of 2005 levels by the year 2030, and an 83% reduction of 2005 levels by 2050.

To achieve the GHG reduction goal of 15% below 2005 levels by 2020, the CAP contains seven strategies. The first strategy is to promote sustainable land use. The goal of this strategy is to decrease vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita in new development by 35%, compared to statewide averages. To help achieve this goal, the strategy involves using more compact development patterns, building closer to transit, and locating jobs near housing. Sacramento hopes to build more complete neighborhoods using “green” practices and “green” infrastructure.

The second strategy focuses on mobility and connectivity. This strategy focuses on increasing the availability, efficiency, and appeal of alternative modes of transportation. It has been found that 48% of Sacramento’s GHG emissions come from diesel and gas use by vehicles; therefore, the CAP concludes that it is imperative to discourage personal car use. To help achieve this goal, Sacramento plans to build higher-density and mixed-use neighborhoods, with safe environments and more infrastructure to promote walking and biking. A decrease in personal car use would also decrease congestion on the highways, allowing for more efficient transportation of cargo.

The third strategy focuses on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy used in buildings accounts for 39% of total emissions in Sacramento, with 17% from residential buildings and 22% from commercial and industrial buildings. This strategy has a two-part goal. The first is to achieve zero net energy in all new construction by 2030. The second is to achieve an overall 15% reduction in energy usage in all existing buildings by 2020. This requires a fundamental shift in energy usage. Sacramento plans to work with energy providers (like SMUD and PG&E) and encourage them to provide incentives to use less electricity and to educate about the importance of conservation. The city also wants to promote and use renewable energy sources, such as hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar.

The fourth strategy entails waste reduction and recycling. Solid waste generation and disposal account for 5.3% of Sacramento’s GHG emissions. The process of disposing of waste in the landfill creates GHG emissions; the subsequent decomposing of waste in the landfill emits GHG as well. The goal of this strategy is a 75% waste diversion by 2020 and zero waste to landfill by 2040. To achieve this goal, there needs to be more production of sustainable goods, but also people need to consume less, recycle, and reuse. These types of behavioral changes will lead to less waste thus saving energy required for disposal.
The fifth strategy focuses on water conservation and efficiency. Energy used to pump, transport, and treat water creates GHG emissions. The goal is a 20% reduction in per capita water consumption by 2020 with more efficient ways to store and distribute water. This strategy also includes encouraging water conservation.

The last two strategies specifically deal with the need to prepare for climate change. The sixth strategy focuses on creating a “climate change-resilient community,” one that is aware of impending climate change and prepared to handle it. This involves monitoring weather changes, and creating infrastructure improvements so as to better handle extreme weather. The final strategy addresses community involvement and empowerment. The CAP strives to promote citizen action through outreach programs, City acknowledgment of community accomplishments, and cooperative public/private efforts to achieve the mitigation and preparation goals.

The City determined that the CAP constitutes a project pursuant to CEQA because it includes measures that change the physical environment and influence land use and development patterns. However, the CAP builds on the policies outlined in the General Plan and its preparation was called for in Environmental Resources Implementation Program #12 included in the General Plan. The CAP, therefore, concludes that the Master EIR (MEIR) prepared for the 2030 General Plan adequately considered and described the impacts of the Climate Action Plan for the purposes of CEQA.

The City designed the CAP consistent with the requirements of SB 97 in order to permit qualified projects to take advantage of CEQA streamlining for analysis of GHG emission and related impacts for projects that are consistent with the Plan. (See CEQA Guidelines, § 15183.5 [procedure for tiering and streamlining the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions].) Appendix C of the CAP sets forth the actions that new development projects and/or existing developments must comply with to be consistent with the CAP.

Written By: Tina Thomas, Chris Butcher and Holly McMannes (law clerk)

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For questions relating to this blog post or any other California land use, environmental and/or planning issues contact Thomas Law Group at (916) 287-9292.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Thomas Law Group, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.