Doug Silverstein

Doug Silverstein

Dire climate headlines combined with visible uprisings, from youth strikes to Congress resolutions, present a huge opportunity for Peninsula city councils.

At U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office in February, future leaders questioned our transition to a cleaner planet. Not satisfied with her response, 1000+ claimed city streets in March to sound the alarm and turn up the volume. Peninsula youth activists were among them.

With this new “political will,” all San Mateo County cities have an immediate chance to affect climate change. For each to create community Green New Deals that lower carbon emissions, one resolution at a time.

City councils, managers and front-line staff can promptly become climate champions. As can residents, students, business owners and developers.

Peninsula cities install EV chargers, paint bike lanes, limit leaf blowers and pass building codes. They manage transit shuttles, solar incentives, fleet electrification, and bike sharing plans — the cumulative impact of which greatly reduce carbon emissions.

Expanded green building codes, for example, lock in major energy efficiencies for the structure’s life. Limiting methane gas and adding solar panels and EV chargers alter their footprint for 50+ years.

Sometimes unique opportunities arise for cities to leverage energy and transit experts’ advice and pass “gavel-ready” resolutions.

Like the 2020 Title 24 expanded green building codes (aka reach codes) with superior energy efficiency and lower pollutants that go one step beyond state requirements for new homes and commercial structures.

Expertly crafted in May by county leaders, they encourage low-cost all-electric new construction of healthier, safer and zero emission buildings. They improve indoor air quality, reduce the risk of fires and make it easier to charge electric vehicles. In my opinion, as a 25-year Peninsula resident and generational Bay Area native, they reflect the sustainability-related values of our community.

Now, with a “gavel-ready” resolution publicly available, elected leaders have a once in a council-cycle opportunity for everyone to win — elected officials, city staff, building owners, residents, businesses and developers.

But most importantly, the winners are our children — many of whom will be hitting their mid-30s when the scientists’ ominous 2050 climate predictions rain down. Or our grandchildren who will celebrate New Year’s 2099, with or without sea level rise and forest fires.

So, what can you do right now to capture this impactful opportunity?

• City councils — partner with city managers, exercise climate leadership and champion this “gavel-ready” resolution;

• City managers — review experts’ Title 24 Reach Codes from Peninsula Clean Energy and talk to city staff;

• City staff — build capacity to support developers;

• Developers — embrace safer, cleaner electric water and space heating technologies that lower costs for community members and students;

• Community members and students — partner with councilmembers, ask questions about green construction codes and, if you don’t get satisfied answers, turn up the volume.

Climate science is real, and the consequences are dire. But political will and this reach code resolution is an ideal place to start.

With this foundation, we can all help build community Green New Deals (aka Climate Action Plans or CAPs) that expand EV chargers, solar incentives and transit shuttles.

Burlingame, San Mateo and Redwood City are now drafting CAPs that can meaningfully lower greenhouse gas emissions and transform our communities. Other cities will follow.

Outlining specific actions to meet 2030-2050 emission targets and other sustainability goals, CAPs provide another opportunity for county residents, through city-led workshops and online-comments, to influence critical green policies and practices, from energy and transit to water and waste.

Become a climate champion today, for the long-term benefit of our communities. “Political will” is now abundant, and the door to city hall is currently open.

Doug Silverstein is a board member of the nonprofit Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame and a environmental sustainability volunteer. These views are his own.

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(4) comments

Dirk van Ulden

Doug is barking up the wrong tree. He should be taking his list to the leaderships of China and India. While we should not deliberately foul our environment, the pollution emanating from those countries far outstrips any effort that he proposed at an enormous cost to us. His proposed agenda will make our lives even more regulated, less comfortable and would have a minute impact, if any at all, on the the world's climate change mediation efforts.

Mike Dunham

Your facts are incorrect, Dirk. The US is the #2 aggregate greenhouse gas emitter (after China, ahead of India), and we are far, far worse than those two countries on a per capita basis. This is an American problem that we need to solve here:

Dirk van Ulden

Mike - I should have qualified my comments so thank you for pointing out the relevant statistics. However if one looks at the increases over the past 4 years, the US is increasing its carbon emissions by only 5% but China and India respectively by 8% and 19%. Ours appears to be leveling off whereas the burgeoning economies of those two countries will increase their share significantly. Thus, I reiterate that Doug's proposals, many of which are already in progress here, ought to be presented to China and India. BTW, the information on per capita carbon emission is meaningless; we are a first world country so to compare us with the dire situations in China's and India's countryside with their billion populations is pure folly.

Mike Dunham

Dirk - I agree with you that India and China ALSO have to do quite a bit to curb their greenhouse gas emissions for us to solve this problem. However, even if the US is leveling off, that is not remotely sufficient. According to the IPCC report from last fall, the globe needs to cut its emissions in half by 2030 to have a shot at staying below 1.5-degrees celsius of warming ( Simply maintaining current American emissions levels would not be sufficient. A good source for comparing these three countries is the Climate Action Tracker, and according to them, the US's current path is farther from a 1.5-degree world than either China's or India's: US (>4-degree compatible): China (4-degree compatible): India (2-degree compatible): Indeed, because we are a more advanced economy, we have more technology and resources to be tackling this problem than most countries, including China and India, so we have an even greater responsibility to lead on this issue.

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