Strengthen the Heritage Tree Ordinance to more effectively protect old, healthy trees. Establish turf limitations and water-efficient landscaping requirements.
Support high-speed rail, eliminate solar permit fees for residential and commercial properties, and require businesses with high levels of waste to recycle.
Will the city of Menlo Park be willing and financially able to support these priorities to help reduce the community's carbon footprint? That's a question the City Council and staff will be addressing over the coming months as they review these and a lengthy list of other recommendations by a citizens' greenhouse gas emissions-reduction task force.
The Menlo Park Green Ribbon Citizens' Committee released its report and 130 recommendations last week, highlighting 32 top priorities on the list.
The council on Nov. 20 will decide whether to direct staff to evaluate the proposals, which would continue the process that began in March with task force members rolling up their sleeves and spending hundreds of hours of volunteer time trying to figure out ways for the city to address global warming at the local level.
It's likely that the council will give staff the green light to study the proposals. The task force is a result of the council's listing "environmental stewardship" among its top nine goals last January, and council members allocated $100,000 for this fiscal year for "green initiatives" recommended by the task force.
The 130 recommendations constitute the vehicle by which the Green Ribbon Citizens' Committee hopes to reach what the newly released report calls its top-ranked recommendation: "To adopt a goal of achieving 'climate neutrality' in our community by 2030, and develop a Climate Action Plan to ... achieve this goal."
Climate neutrality is, generally, balancing activities and behavior in a way that will offset the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere.
Resident Mitch Slomiak, a key member of the green ribbon committee, said committee members arrived at three primary strategies to reach the climate neutrality goal, beginning with "reducing carbon emissions (for example, through the conservation of electricity and fuel) as much as is feasible."
"Carbon sequestration" is another method, he said, and gains in that area can be achieved by planting trees and other vegetation.
The committee identified "offset programs," such as PG&E's ClimateSmart, as another critical strategy. ClimateSmart and other such programs offer individuals and businesses the option of paying a fee that would be invested in ventures that don't contribute to — and could help alleviate — global warming. These include massive tree-planting efforts, forest protection and alternative energy projects. The fee would be calculated to offset the payer's own greenhouse gas emissions.
"Menlo Park alone is not going to solve the global warming problem," Mr. Slomiak said. But if it's one of a significant number of cities determined to cut its emissions to address the problem, "we will put a big dent in it," he added.
More than 40 community members participated in the committee, working on subcommittees focusing on energy and waste reduction; transportation and transit; land use and building; communications, outreach and public education; and "green" business.
Mayor Kelly Fergusson and Councilman Heyward Robinson launched and were participants on the committee.
City's "carbon footprint"
To ascertain how big the city's "carbon footprint" is, the City Council funded a greenhouse gas emissions study by International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
The results of that study, which focused on emissions in 2005, were also released last week.
The analysis found that the city's transportation and commercial sectors were the largest sources of greenhouse gas, contributing 31.5 percent and 31.3 percent, respectively.
City government operations contributed 0.5 percent of total emissions if the methane gas released from the former landfill at Bayfront Park is not included in the equation. According to a staff report, local government emissions typically account for about 2 percent of a community's total.
With Bayfront Park included in the calculation, however, the city's emissions level rises to 10 percent.
Micah Lang of ICLEI noted that "Menlo Park is doing about as much as it can do to control emissions" at the former landfill by contracting with a firm that turns much of the escaping methane into "green electricity." The gas that can't be captured and converted, however, contributes 9.5 percent of the community's greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Lang said his firm is working to develop a protocol that will allow comparisons of communities' carbon footprints, but at this point, no comparison can be made.
The City Council will discuss the green ribbon committee's report and the greenhouse gas emissions analysis at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St., in the Menlo Park Civic Center. A summary of the committee's top 32 recommendations can be found in the staff report by going to www.menlopark.org and clicking on City Council, then the Nov. 20 agenda.