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City adopts climate action plan

 
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Menlo Park has a new plan to address the issue of climate change.

How aggressive the city will be in pursuing some of the measures outlined in its "climate action plan" -- and how some of those measures might get funded -- is yet to be determined.

Among the proposals: installing solar panels and reflective roofing on city buildings, giving residents loans to make energy-efficient home improvements, and expanding the city's shuttle service.

The City Council approved the plan in a unanimous vote at its May 19 meeting. Prepared by a consultant that specializes in creating climate strategies for local jurisdictions and revised by city staff members, the plan expands upon and fleshes out a dense list of recommendations prepared by the volunteer Green Ribbon Citizens' Committee in late 2007, council members say.

They acknowledge, however, that it's incomplete. The city exhausted the $38,000 it expects to receive in grant money to prepare the plan before it had a chance to fully revise the document, and council members look poised to allow a city commission to work on the plan -- possibly in consultation with the Green Ribbon committee.

Much of the discussion at the May 19 meeting centered on how the city could quantify its efforts to rein in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the Earth's atmosphere. In an impassioned speech to the council, Mitch Slomiak, head of the Green Ribbon committee, urged the city to set measurable goals in reducing emissions, and to treat its "carbon budget" in the same way it regards its general operating fund budget.

But council members struggled with how to make the issue tangible. Unlike most of the line items in the city's budget, a decreased carbon output won't provide a direct benefit to the city.

"One might almost conclude that anything we do here is basically symbolic, and setting an example," said Councilman Andy Cohen.

Council members agree that the city should think seriously about the issue, but it remains to be seen how the plan will affect the city's operation. The council has tentatively approved spending $28,000 from the city's general operating fund to flesh out the plan, and to seek funding that would provide for a city climate coordinator position.

Gail Slocum, a former councilwoman and a member of the Green Ribbon committee, said the city would do well to invest early in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"The key to my mind is that Menlo Park establish a paradigm for how a city can keep in mind its budget, and also the carbon metric, in a way that marries the two," Ms. Slocum said at the May 19 meeting.

Councilman John Boyle said he was struggling with the idea of how the plan would fit in with the city's budget. He noted that even actions that would pay for themselves, such as installing solar panels on city buildings, often take decades to recoup their costs.

The plan leaves much to be desired, but council members say that approving it is an important gesture -- and that its existence may help the city in competing for grants, especially through the federal stimulus bill.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Roald A.
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Before the council spends another dime on this issue, they need to ask these five one-word questions about Al Gore's and the IPCC's claims of the global warming debate being settled - "when, where, who, how, why": If the global warming debate is truly over, WHEN exactly did the debate occur, WHERE was it, WHO attended, HOW were expert scientists offering conclusions contradictory to IPCC reports addressed and refuted beyond a shadow of a doubt, and is there any reason WHY Dr S Fred Singer's "Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC 2008), a collection of peer-reviewed published scientific papers, should not be considered as a second opinion to the IPCC reports?


Like this comment
Posted by Practical
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm

MP should create a program similar to Berkeley for funding the installation of solar panels on individual buildings with an increase in that buildings property taxes.


Like this comment
Posted by Agree with Ronald
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 23, 2009 at 11:17 pm

How can we fund something without a plan? Why does the city need to subsidize anything that private citizens should do themselves? I fear we are chasing a rat down a black hole, and I fear we will be wasting MORE of our tax paying citizens money. Solar panels on city owned buildings are nice, if they payoff within 5-7 years, but let's stay away from loans to anything private. Also, Mr. Cohen, the last time I checked "symbolic" does not pay my rent!


Like this comment
Posted by Saving Fuel
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2009 at 11:48 am

A simple starting point is getting City departments to save fuel. In another thread relating to the police dept budget, I suggested some fairly simple ways that the PD can save fuel. I'm sure other departments can each make their own contribution (however small) to saving fuel. This will not only save money, but will also contribute to addressing the issue of climate change.


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