Bay Area big-city mayors to endorse climate compact at SVLG event

This story originally appeared in the Mercury News.

The Bay Area’s big-city mayors are expected to commit to a climate-change compact today. The scope is wide, but details are thin.

San Jose’s Chuck Reed, San Francisco’s Gavin Newsom and Oakland’s Ron Dellums are scheduled to participate in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s annual Projections event on the Santa Clara University campus, where they’ll pledge support for a region-wide approach to combating global warming.

What’s being called the Bay Area Climate Change Compact is, according to the leadership group, “a call to take immediate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions and increase the resilience of the region to global climate change.”

Few details have been released as the document undergoes some final tweaks. But Mike Mielke, the group’s director of environmental programs and policy, said specific goals have been set for 2013, including:

  • Reducing electricity usage in municipal buildings by 10 percent;
  • Adding 20,000 so-called green-collar jobs, including both management and skilled positions;
  • Decreasing community water consumption by 15 percent.

Other targets in the “Projections: Clean & Green” report to be released today include:

  • A common standard for green building and rooftop-solar installations;
  • Persuading commuters to use public transit and to walk and bike more frequently;
  • Boosting use of renewable energy;
  • Adopting a regional climate-change plan;
  • Diverting more waste from landfills;
  • Increasing use of electric vehicles.

In San Jose, Reed proposed a “Green Vision” in 2007 with similar aggressive goals, which have been approved by the city council. In San Francisco, Newsom has pushed for incentives to decrease the cost of solar panels and pushed for strict green building standards.

“It is expanding the scope of the ‘Green Vision’ to the rest of the region,” said Jeff Janssen, Reed’s senior policy adviser for government relations. “It will allow the Bay Area to speak with one voice when we go to Sacramento and talk with our state leaders about the things necessary to affect change.”
Besides the three cities, leaders hope to get the compact approved by a wide variety of entities, including the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Association of Bay Area Governments and other Bay Area cities. It already has been endorsed by the board of the leadership group, which represents more than 250 valley-based companies.

“Rather than solely relying on city-by-city efforts, our regional Climate Change Compact will galvanize the horsepower of 100 cities, towns and counties across the Bay Area,” said Carl Guardino, chief executive of the leadership group. “This public-private partnership will create an incentive for cities, but also a vehicle for employers and individuals to respond to a call for collective action.”

Details are still being finalized, Mielke said. A final draft is expected to be ready by Sept. 19 when the Joint Policy Committee meets. That group coordinates efforts of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“What’s significant about this is that it’s very comprehensive,” said Tom Bottorff, senior vice president of regulatory relations at Pacific Gas & Electric. “It’s not focused on one industry. It’s not focused on one step. It crosses all types of boundaries to focus on greenhouse gas reductions.”
As a member of the leadership group, PG&E has ratified the compact, Bottorf said. He expects the cities and various governmental agencies to do the same.

The utility will focus on promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and zero- or ultra-low-emission vehicles, he said.

He described the region-wide, public-private partnership as “fairly ambitious.”

Janssen, who said the compact’s goal aren’t loftier than what San Jose already has approved in its “Green Vision,” expects to bring the document before city council in October.

Neither his boss nor San Francisco’s Newsom wanted to sign a document “full of empty promises or one that would sit on a shelf and gather dust,” Janssen said. Instead, the compact will offer specific goals and a timeline, although that information hasn’t been released to the public yet.

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