“President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is ridiculous and short-sighted, and it moves this country backward as a world leader,” Santa Barbara’s mayor, Helene Schneider, told The Independent on Monday. “Cities have and will continue to step up and demonstrate how strong environmental policies are good for both the economy and the environment.” Schneider is one of 211 U.S. Climate Mayors who vowed to work with the terms of the Paris Agreement, despite the U.S. president’s announcement he was withdrawing the country from the accord.
The City of Santa Barbara has put word to action, announcing on Tuesday a pledge of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Previously, the city achieved its 1997 Kyoto Protocol goal of 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions by 2007.
The city’s actions to form bicycle and pedestrian master plans, keep its urban forest healthy during the drought, increase rainfall storage with permeable pavers, and restore wetland and creek habitats, said Matt Fore, who wrangles all things sustainable for the city, are part of the city’s focus on its overall climate action plan. In addition to targeting large energy users, like out-of-date HVAC systems and boiler facilities, the city is converting some of its fleet of vehicles to biodiesel and pooling the use of automobiles; about a third of its vehicles don’t burn fossil fuels. These measures and more will be needed to offset the desalination plant, which is anticipated to increase electricity usage by 13.8 million kilowatt hours at a cost of $1.75 million annually. “We’re looking at every little bit we can reduce to put a dent in that overall additional load,” said the city’s energy expert, Alelia Parenteau.
Countywide, residents and industry stepped up to install solar at their homes and businesses, adding more than 6,000 solar installations that send 41.92 megawatts along transmission lines, said April Price with the Community Environmental Council, which runs a group-purchase solar program among its other green projects. In county government, the Energy and Climate Action Plan set a goal of 15 percent GHG reductions by 2020 as compared to 2007, targeting an inventory of emissions from transportation to the waste stream to reduce the county’s carbon footprint. The data on these energy-saving endeavors is being collected now for a report later this month, said Jennifer Cregar, who supervises those initiatives for the county.
The Paris Agreement put countries on their honor to set goals to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, at a maximum, by 2100. It was no surprise when U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on that pledge on June 1. The pushback was immediate. Emmanuel Macron, France’s newly elected president who beat the right-wing, Russia-preferred Marine Le Pen, offered France as a “second homeland” to U.S. citizens an hour later. The Climate Mayors, as well as the governors of California, New York, and Washington pledged to honor the Paris accord. When Trump stated he was elected to represent Pittsburgh not Paris, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, issued an executive order the next day affirming the city’s commitment to Paris.
Left to current devices, glacier-melting temperature rises of 3.3-3.8 degrees Celsius are anticipated, and even if all countries do their best per Paris, temps are still expected to go up 2.5-2.7ºC by 2100. The voluntary goals of the Paris Agreement mean countries can choose to do more, a challenge now being taken up by China in the vacuum left by Trump’s actions.
Of the 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, 75 have responded with their “nationally determined contribution.” Neither Russia nor the U.S. has formally given the UN their climate goals per Paris, though the U.S. goal after the Lima convention in 2015 was 26-28 percent reductions by 2025, as compared to 2005. By counting carbon-sequestering forests, the Russian federation set a 75 percent reduction goal after Lima, or a greenhouse gas reduction of 25-30 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The other notable polluters have set Paris reductions: EU – 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990; India – 20-25 percent per GDP by 2020 as compared to 2005; Japan – 26 percent reduction by 2030, compared to 2005; and China – 40-45 percent reductions in CO2 per GDP by 2020 compared to 2005.
The University of California system, a constellation of mini-cities around the state, has set its own goals under UC President Janet Napolitano. Its sustainability programs encompass energy, food, building, transportation, waste, and water, with a goal in chief to achieve 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 2020. This required reducing emissions by 23 percent, a goal already achieved by UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, and UC Santa Barbara.
Part of the UC scheme includes an 80 megawatt solar array in Fresno County — about 14 percent of the UC’s total electricity usage — half of which came online in 2016 and the other half due this summer. At UCSB itself, five solar arrays deliver 155 kilowatts of power, with a new multi-site project to deliver another 5 megawatts. The school is the only one in the UC system to be awarded LEED for Homes Platinum status — for its Sierra Madre Villages development — adding to its existing 67 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. Last year, UCSB got closer to its 2020 goal of reducing water use by 20 percent when it instituted closed-loop cooling for 63 benchtop condensers in campus laboratories. And Zip cars, bicycles, skateboarding, buses, and food sustainability are endemic to campus life.
Whether the loss of the U.S. in the Paris Accord process will matter or not continues to be debated. Some say the EPA abolishing the Clean Power Plan and attempting to bring coal back is a more effective setback than backing out of Paris. With the exception of coal executives, energy producers have no intention of burning coal again. The giant ExxonMobil — recently led by Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson — has been putting its money into natural gas and even R&D for algae biofuel for years now. The CEO of the Midwest’s American Electric Power, Nicholas Akin, was quoted on National Public Radio as saying his investors expect a “focus on sustainability” and his customers that “we move to that cleaner energy economy.”