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Envisioning a zero-carbon future.

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Tesla charging station in Monterey

A Tesla charging station in Monterey. Part of the climate action plan updates proposed by LandWatch and EcoDataLab call for more electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Sara Rubin here, thinking about our biggest problems and how they can feel unsolvable. The climate crisis is a problem like this—not only is it existential by its very nature, but it’s something that requires big solutions from big players. I can do little things like ride my bike to work or hang my laundry to air dry, but those actions aren’t stopping sea level rise, historic heat waves, record flooding or devastating wildfires happening before my eyes. 

Faced with devastation on this scale, is there anything we can do locally?

The answer (spoiler alert) is yes. And there is a serious effort by a range of local jurisdictions and advocates to do something. 

Take the case of the city of Monterey, which in 2016 adopted a climate action plan that lays out goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to achieve an 80-percent reduction in emissions by 2050. The plan included an inventory showing that two sources—transportation (mostly cars) and natural gas usage in buildings—overwhelmingly accounted for GHG emissions.

It’s a forward-thinking document and looks at things like improving walkability and transit, and updating the city’s vehicle fleet. But even city officials knew it was not enough, and that they could do more. Mayor Clyde Roberson reached out to LandWatch Monterey County asking for help with crafting a more assertive plan, and LandWatch happily complied. They joined up with the group EcoDataLab, a consortium of universities using data science to scale up climate and sustainability solutions. EcoDataLab’s Ben Gould prepared a strategy for Monterey to get to net-zero by 2045. 

The draft strategy looks closely at transportation—getting gas-powered cars off the road in favor of bikes, e-bikes and electric vehicles—and also boldly rethinking land use, to create denser, more concentrated communities that require less driving. “As a result of Monterey’s zoning decisions, tens of thousands of residents and employees are forced into cars, choking local streets, dirtying the air, and polluting the Monterey Bay with tire-derived microplastics, while thousands more simply cannot find a home they can afford,” according to the draft report. “These tragedies are entirely preventable.”

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Next, Gould and LandWatch Executive Director Michael DeLapa want to present their ideas in detail, and they want to hear from the public about the proposed plan. Their hope is to develop a viable (but very aggressive) strategy for confronting the climate crisis, and then getting the city to adopt it. 

To that end, DeLapa, Gould, Roberson and the Monterey chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby invite the public to a virtual discussion at 7pm tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 4) to talk about a net-zero plan for 2045 and what it would entail. To join the free event, RSVP here

“This is the defining existential issue of our lives,” DeLapa says. “If we don’t get this right, everything else we care about won’t matter.”

Other local jurisdictions, including Monterey County and the cities of Carmel and Salinas are in various stages of developing their own climate action plans. If we get one good template to work from, who knows—others on the Central Coast and even further afield might duplicate the effort. And that way, we can indeed take local action to make progress in solving a global crisis.

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Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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