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Petaluma City Council seeks to be carbon neutral by 2030

The City Council took action against climate change on Monday when it adopted an ambitious ecological plan that calls for a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

The “Climate Emergency Framework” is the result of approximately nine months of work by the city’s Climate Action Commission. This week marked the first time the elected body weighed in on the commission’s guidepost report, which was unanimously approved.

The framework outlines broad goals and objectives in the city’s nascent effort to be more sustainable and adapt to the rapidly changing environment. The 58-page document is divided into four sections: Equity and Climate Justice, Mitigation and Sequestration, Community Engagement and Adaptation and Social Resilience. Authors say it is meant to provide a foundation for future city planning efforts, including the March citywide goal setting event.

“This framework is really a milestone for the commission,” said commission chair Ann Baker. “We just completed our first year, and this (report) involves a community effort and hundreds of hours from volunteers.”

At least 74 members of the public tuned in to the special four-hour City Council meeting on Monday night. More than a dozen residents logged on to Zoom to express both approval and encouragement for the city’s green efforts, although some local activists have been critical of government at all levels for what they see as a glacially slow response at odds with the urgency of the climate crisis.

Council members listened to a presentation by commissioners during the meeting and discussed a proposed 15-point climate action list. The report included specific recommendations such as adopting an updated policy to measure car trips in proposed developments, banning natural gas hookups in new construction, and imposing an emergency moratorium on projects along floodplain and wetland areas.

The recommendation that Petaluma become carbon neutral by 2030 is on trend with resolutions passed by other cities in the county, including Sonoma, Cloverdale and Sebastopol. Previously, the City considered a goal to neutralize carbon usage by 2045, moving up the target date to more aggressively address the problem.

“If we are sincere in our effort to get anywhere close to net zero emission by 2030, it will require of all of us monumental efforts,” said resident and climate activist Pete Gang during public comment. “And that’s what we’re signing up for.”

The current six-member advisory board, which includes a council member and one vacant seat, is populated by a collection of Petaluma residents with backgrounds in the environment and policy. The special meeting also acted as a public unveiling of the commissioners’ work, offering both council and members of the public an opportunity to check up on its progress.

Councilmember D’Lynda Fischer served as the commission’s council liaison until the post was assumed by incoming Councilmember Dennis Pocekay. She was one of the group’s earliest supporters, and recounted its genesis while commending its progress.

“We as council members appointed this commission,” she said at the meeting. “So it was a new body that never worked together before coming together to try to tackle one of the most important crises of our time.”

The commissioners were appointed in October 2019 as local leaders made sustainability a leading priority. At the same moment, officials declared a climate emergency and committed to becoming a beacon for the region in meeting climate change and sustainability goals.

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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