The second in a series of “Climate Action Plan Workshops” sponsored by The Desert Cities Energy Partnership was held this last week in Palm Desert. Attended primarily by various representatives of Coachella Valley Cities, this workshop focused on the elements and benefits of creating Climate Action Plans (CAPs) in order to further reduce green house gasses (GHG) in our desert community. While certainly a work in progress, the topics covered showed clear evidence that steps are being taken and money being saved by several Coachella Valley Cities. Also apparent was the need for even more education and action at both the city and community level.
A vital piece of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission story here in the Coachella Valley is the valley-wide inventory in progress since 2009. According to Katie Barrows, Director for Environmental Resources for the Coachella Valley Assoc. of Governments (CVAG), two key preliminary findings from the GHG inventory are:
*Here in the Coachella Valley, emissions from transportation sources, including cars and all trucks, represent 76% of total GHG emissions in 2005.
* If no action is taken, by 2020, under a business as usual scenario, regional GHG emissions are expected to increase 23% over 2005 levels.
A breakdown of some of these emissions showed that 41% of the GHG mentioned above came from passenger cars and trucks. Shockingly, 30% of the GHG Emissions came from Heavy Duty Diesel Trucks alone. The rest of the overall valley emissions come from waste disposal, electricity generation and a few other categories.
GHG Emissions that are considered “stationary”
The real benefit of such an inventory is the ability to predict that if no action is taken regional GHG emissions here in our valley will increase on an average 23%. With a state currently recommending 15% below current levels by 2020, it is obvious that aggressive steps must be taken to come anywhere near achieving that directive.
The next speaker was Monica Gilchrist from ICLEI –an international association of local governments that provides technical consulting, training and information services to help work toward the implementation of sustainable development. Gilchrist offered tips to local city representatives explaining how important it was to first inventory current GHG emissions and counting where and what each city can responsibly control. After all, as she said, “You can’t effectively reduce what you don’t measure.” Gilchrist also recommended that once each city completes an inventory, they then establish a target, next develop a climate action plan around that target, then implement the plan and finally monitor progress. Best practices then suggest this process every couple of years.
On a practical level Gilchrist stated that current economic conditions actually strengthened the GHG reduction case when dealing with many cities and local governments. Instead of addressing issues like climate change or saving the planet, the new best way to encourage cities to embrace GHG reductions is to qualify your reductions in terms of the dollar savings. The more cities that provide evidence of such savings, the stronger the argument. The new “take home message” is that saving GHG emissions saves energy and that saves money.
Following the presentation by Gilchrist were Missy Grisa, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Palm Desert, Les Johnson, Planning Director for the City of La Quinta, and Michele Mician, Sustainability Manager from Palm Springs. Each spoke on topics related to how their city and other cities are addressing building and energy use, water conservation, transportation, land use, waste reduction and recycling. The topics covered appeared to address the basics as both education and practical “how to” examples for those in attendance.
Particularly refreshing was Johnson who claimed that the city of La Quinta is already focusing on new ways to look at transportation issues and parking management. He suggested that instead of creating hug parking lots for big box retailers—perhaps a cap needs to be put on the number of stalls and we should start to embrace the idea that having a parking problem is not necessarily bad for either business or development. Encouraging mixed-use development with lots of parks and open space along with bicycle and pedestrian use is also part of their “more realistic” approach to sustainable development.
The final speaker of the day was author and architect Eric Corey Freed. He topped off the discussion with both encouragement and call-to-action. In a humorous but direct fashion, Freed suggested that we have “traded our landscapes for hardscapes,”
A brief discussion followed the presentations, but few questions were asked or answered. It was unclear whether the information presented was something widely known, or whether there is a resistance on the part of city personnel in following such suggestions and making changes to existing policies. Still, as long as California AB 32 and other legislation like it remain on the books, every city in the Coachella Valley will not only be required to reduce their GHG emissions, they will save money and energy at the same time.
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Coachella Valley Green (CVG) is an information gateway to the people, businesses and places that are green and sustainable within the Coachella Valley of CA and beyond--including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indio.