Carbon Zero by 2045
Local mayors’ climate commission issues bold set of recommendations to achieve carbon neutrality
July 29, 2020: The cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento would be net carbon zero in 25 years if they were to follow a set of recommendations issued by a commission launched by their mayors.
Mayors Darrell Steinberg and Christopher Cabaldon launched the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change in November 2018 to help address the increasing climate change risks faced by the region. These include more and longer heat waves; more disease-causing pathogens such as West Nile virus and Valley Fever; more frequent severe storms and floods; increased wildfire risks and impacts; threats to hydropower generation from decreased snowpack; and threats to crop productivity.
The commission comprised 19 local and regional leaders representing public agencies (including SACOG), community-based organizations, businesses, and academia. Its final report, which was adopted unanimously at its final meeting on June 29, made recommendations in three categories: built environment, mobility, and community health and resilience.
In the built environment, the commission recommended mandating all-electric construction to eliminate fossil-fuel use in all new buildings by 2026, with the qualification that the costs to go all-electric are cost-effective. Such a mandate would have to be approved by each city’s council for them to join the nearly 30 California cities with similar ordinances or reach codes. The report says that mandating new buildings to be fully electrified will future-proof these buildings while helping the market mature. Studies have shown that building electrification can reduce the cost of constructing new homes, lower energy bills, create local jobs, improve air quality, and put downward pressure on electricity rates.
The commission also recommended sustainable land use measures such as supporting infill growth to ensure that 90 percent of the cities’ growth is in the established and center/corridor communities and is 90 percent small-lot and attached homes by 2040.
The mobility sector is the largest source of emissions for both Sacramento and West Sacramento and the commission recommended that investment to stem those emissions should follow a hierarchy that first prioritizes active transportation (walking, biking, rolling), followed by transit and shared mobility, and finally zero-emission vehicles.
“The gasoline-powered transportation sector is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in our region and the adopted report recognizes the urgent need to reduce emissions while promoting our shared goals for equitable mobility and sustainable communities,” said Commissioner and SacRT GM/CEO Henry Li.
In the category of community health and resilience, the commission prioritized expanding green space and tree canopies, and enhancing food security through sourcing locally and reducing food waste and building networks to increase community adaptation to climate change extremes.
“I am especially pleased that the report lays out impactful strategies for building and transportation electrification and increased tree canopies while ensuring that no community is left behind in the process,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
Specifically, the commission called for expanding green infrastructure to ensure that all neighborhoods, starting with historically marginalized communities and tree-deficient neighborhoods, have access to green space within a quarter mile by 2030. They recommended a baseline canopy of 25 percent by 2030, and 35 percent by 2045.
To build momentum and maintain community engagement around these strategies, the commission said “it is critical for the cities to pursue pilots and initiatives that demonstrate tangible results.” Its recommendations included a lengthy list of near-term projects such as green, innovative, entrepreneurial and inclusive workforce training programs; establishing a “food recovery to food security” network with restaurants, catering companies, grocery stores, local food banks, and community food hubs to reduce food waste and address food insecurity; and establishing car-free districts on weekend nights in areas that offer local commerce, recreation, and arts and culture.
Many of the commission’s recommendations are aligned with the region’s Prosperity Strategy and they have also been forwarded for consideration for each city’s Climate Action Plan update.