Tuesday, July 1, 2008

City considers goal of carbon neutrality by 2020


Even as some Santa Barbara city leaders met a proposal to transition the city’s operations into carbon neutrality by 2020 with skepticism about the feasibility of such an undertaking, others called it a bold move that will pay dividends down the road.
After mulling over the concept Tuesday, the City Council agreed to send it off to several subcommittees for further analysis — largely in terms of cost and feasibility.

“What it’s about is knowing where the hell we’re going before we jump off the pier,” Councilmember Roger Horton said.
Initially suggested by the local nonprofit Community Environmental Council last November, the concept of transforming Santa Barbara into a carbon neutral city in 12 years would require a major commitment, said Jim Dewey, the city’s facilities and energy manager.
In 2006, the city discharged nearly 12,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Even with a slate of energy-saving initiatives suggested by a task force known as the “green team” — such as retrofitting lighting and mechanical systems, using more efficient vehicles, and increasing solar and wind energy use — the city would only drop that figure by 2,100 metric tons in the next six years.
To drop emission levels to zero, at least in terms of net carbon output, Dewey said, would take efforts beyond “low-hanging fruit,” involving major capital projects as well as a major amount of time and resources.
Horton, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee, said approving such a proposal without knowing the financial impact to other city services is troubling, despite his support for renewable energy sources.
“That troubles me to the extent that I can’t go forward without knowing what those tradeoffs are,” he said.
Councilmembers Dale Francisco and Iya Falcone, along with Mayor Marty Blum, echoed those concerns.
“I think we need to take a breath here and let some of this settle out,” Falcone said.
In urging the council not to set a goal merely for symbolic reasons, Francisco argued that the transition from fossil fuels will take place due to market forces regardless of what the city does.
He said big solutions to the energy crisis will come from scientists and engineers, not from actions taken by the city of Santa Barbara.
“I’m not pessimistic at all,” Francisco said. “I’m just trying to be prudent with city resources.”
However, Councilmember Das Williams led the charge for supporting the proposal, arguing that the city, as a large consumer of power, needs to send a serious signal to the energy marketplace.
“If we’re content with things sort of leveling off … then we shouldn’t take another action,” he said. “But I’m not really content with that and I don’t think we should be.”
He said a need for more staff and resources should not worry his colleagues, arguing that large projects involving energy efficiency would likely take place in city departments with healthy budgets.
“It’s a little bit of a bushwhack and it’s a little bit exaggerated,” he said.
Councilmembers Helene Schneider and Grant House agreed, both calling a “carbon neutral by 2020” goal for the city a lofty challenge rather than a burden.
“I think we need to be a little more bold and visionary,” Schneider said.
House added that even if the city fails to meet carbon neutrality in 12 years, it would be a lot closer simply by setting the goal and working toward it. The next step, he said, is to come up with a rough plan that addresses the issues of cost and feasibility.
Ultimately, the council took that action, forwarding the proposal on to the city’s Finance and Sustainability committees for more clarity with a mandate to return within five months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How does the Gap Fire figure into this calculation?