Working locally to reduce emissions
The Berkeley Climate Action Coalition is a network of local organizations, the City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley and community members who are working together to help implement the City of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan. Coordinated by the Ecology Center, the Coalition was formed two years ago. The Coalition website is: www.berkeleyclimatecoalition.org. The goal is to help achieve 80% emission reductions in the City of Berkeley by 2050.
The LWVBAE has been a part of the Coalition since its inception with Carol Stone and Regina Beatus representing the League on the Steering Committee. Carol is a member of the Community Choice Energy Working Group and Regina has been a member of the former Multi-Family Building Energy Efficiency Group.
The members participate in Working Groups and attend quarterly meetings with the group at large. The current Working Groups are Community Choice Energy (CCE), Land Use, Transportation and Water Conservation.
Community Choice Energy Working Group
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows cities and counties to pool or aggregate electricity and buy on their behalf. This gives communities the choice to purchase clean energy from renewable sources, ideally produced locally. The Coalition Working Group has made presentations to the Berkeley City Council on possible options and held community forums. One of the forums had a panel with representatives from Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power who shared their experiences in setting up a CCA.
In May the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition joined 200 other cities and advocacy groups to voice opposition to AB2145. This bill would have made Community Choice Aggregation an opt-in process of enrollment not opt-out at the onset of a program. In addition, AB2145 was to limit Community Choice programs to three contiguous counties. The bill, which passed the Assembly, died in the Senate for lack of a vote.
The Community Choice Energy Group is advocating for an Alameda County wide CCA program. In collaboration with others, they successfully lobbied for the Alameda County Supervisors to undertake a feasibility study on the viability of a countywide program.
The process of forming a Community Choice program is complex and will require the support and input from stakeholders throughout the County. The benefits are numerable and include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, competitive pricing, rate stability, and economic development as local energy projects are identified.
The Berkeley City Council just approved $8,600 to the Coalition’s Community Choice Energy Working Group for education and further informational outreach on the issue.
To get involved or invite the Working Group to present, contact: Erica Etelson, email@example.com
Land Use Working Group
The Land Use Working Group advocates for land use that supports resilient communities. This group supports more parks, bike paths and green spaces throughout Berkeley. They have been working hard to help the parks bond pass the city council. Though that did not happen, it opened a conversation with the city staff about the idea of getting new public green spaces. The Group has not given up on the Santa Fe Right of Way (continuing the Ohlone greenway through south Berkeley) and will be working with local non-profits, city staff and community members to help make this happen.
The Land Use Group advocates for community gardens on public land. Four such pieces of underused land have been identified. They are the Santa Fe Right of Way, Greg Brown Park, Berkeley Mini Park and the Lawn Bowling Area. Research has been done via behavior mapping of the sites. The Group will now compile interviews with neighboring cities on their model for volunteers working with the cities on public green spaces.
The Working Group has created a Berkeley Community Gardening Handbook which gives a wealth of information on how to start a community garden.
The Group is promoting drought resistant landscape and bee friendly plants. The goal is to sponsor workshops and lawn conversion workdays. A flyer is being distributed to promote awareness of the EBMUD lawn conversion rebate that will still be available through December 2014.
A recent event supported by the Land Use Working Group and Transportation Working Group members organized by John Steere was the Hidden Gems of Berkeley Tour where community members biked past 30 plus community based park and greenway areas (including Malcolm X School Garden, Spiral Gardens and the Peralta Community Garden).
If you have a passion for seeing more community gardens and greenways in Berkeley and wish to advocate for land uses that support resilient communities, join this group.
To get involved, contact: Shawna McCarroll, Shawna.firstname.lastname@example.org
Transportation Working Group
Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley.
The Transportation Working Group is looking for ways to reduce traffic congestion around Berkeley High School during the morning student drop off times. They are working with the Berkeley High Safety Committee, the administration and students for ideas. Traffic surveys will be conducted in February. In addition, to encourage alternate transportation, the Working Group will be holding bike safety training sessions in the spring. With the passage of Measure BB, the group will also be tracking possible youth bus passes that will encourage alternate behaviors.
The Transportation Working Group is exploring partnerships with local community groups and businesses to develop parklets under the City’s pilot parklet program. They are publishing a guide for businesses with a case study explaining the permitting process. The parklets utilize parking spaces and convert them into cafe seating. The use as performance areas is also a possible option.
The Transportation Group has conducted a greenhouse gas analysis of the Sunday Streets program to better understand the impact on behavior change. The City of Berkeley has sponsored two Sunday open street days all along Shattuck Avenue. These have been very well attended with many people traveling to Sunday Streets on foot or by bicycle. http://www.sundaystreetsberkeley.org/press-releases/
To get involved, contact: Sandra Hamlat, Sandra.email@example.com
Water Working Group
The Water Working Group is responding to the urgency of the drought and long term outlook for our water needs. The Group held a water resource fair this fall called, “We LOVE Water.” The Fair, held in collaboration with the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, included demonstrations on rainwater and gray water storage. The Group plans to hold similar community events next year.
A helpful fact sheet, “Save Water, Fight Climate Change,” has been completed by the Working Group and is available at the City of Berkeley and Ecology Center.
The Berkeley Climate Action Coalition is open to all individuals. The Working Groups are dynamic and new groups can be formed as the need arises. The quarterly meetings feature organizations and speakers, plus give the opportunity to join one of the Working Groups.
The impacts and solutions to climate change are very local. It’s about the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of our kids and community. We must make changes now to plan ahead for the future challenges our City will face.
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