About the Contra Costa County Sustainability Commission

Our county’s sustainability commission is a recent addition (November 2016) to the slate of community commissions created by the Board of Supervisors. According to its webpage, its responsibilities are threefold:

  • Provide Advice to staff and the Board on successful implementation of the Climate Action Plan (CAP), including suggestions on how that work can be performed more efficiently and effectively.
  • Advise the Board on opportunities to realize equity and fairness across the diverse communities of Contra Costa County in sustainability programs that support the Climate Action Plan.
  • Provide suggestions to staff and the Board on how to better engage Contra Costa County residents and businesses on sustainability issues and implementation of the Climate Action Plan.

The Climate Action Plan is clearly a critical component of the commission’s charter and is . This document was approved by the supervisors in December 2015 and sets goals for the county to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across six sectors. These are:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy
  • Land use and transportation
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Government operations

Thus, the commission’s purpose is to assist the county staff (specifically the Sustainability Director) in meeting the Climate Action Plan goals by increasing awareness of sustainability throughout the county and coordinating with local organizations and governments as appropriate. 

At the county level, the two departments most responsible for implementing the Climate Action Plan are Conservation and Development and Public Works. The are tasked with reducing GHGs in unincorporated areas of the county by 15% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 50% below 1990 levels by 2035. These are roughly in line with AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which sets a GHG target of meeting 1990 levels by 2020. Recent reporting shows that our state has already beat it. The latest target, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016, is to be 40% lower than 1990 levels by 2030.

Taking a step back, the reason for having a Climate Action Plan in the first place is to preserve the natural beauty in our county. The CAP was created to improve air quality and provide community health benefits, mitigate against climate change more broadly and adhere to statewide goals, including economic growth. 

Reducing greenhouse gases of course is easier said than done. In our county, about a third of GHGs come from energy consumption (residential and non-residential), half come from road transportation, and the rest comes from landfill, agriculture, and others. 

Off the bat, the biggest opportunities I see for reduction are in residential energy and road transportation. Getting more residents to sign on to the MCE Deep Green option with the power bills should have an impact. I’d be curious to know what that is (or how to calculate it). The other one of course is simply having fewer car trips made. I bet Lime bikes, once fully engage with the community, will have an impact there, as it did in Walnut Creek’s pilot program. ​

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