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Another First for Sonoma County: White House Climate Champions Award

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Another First for Sonoma County:
White House Climate Champions Award

by Tish Levee

On December 3rd, Sonoma County received one of sixteen White House Climate Action Champions’ Awards. The Climate Action Champions represent a diverse group of communities from two tribal groups, several large cities, and regional groups that are defining the frontier of ambitious climate action with approaches that can serve as a model for other communities.

The award was granted to the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), which applied for it this fall. As the nation’s first local government agency created specifically to address climate change, RCPA, founded in 2009, coordinates countywide efforts to implement and advocate a broad range of programs and projects to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The RCPA model brings individual agency efforts under one umbrella and aligns related projects towards common goals.

RCPA grew out of work done by the Climate Protection Campaign, which recently changed its name to the Center for Climate Protection (http://climateprotection.org/) to better reflect its mission and increase its impact. Ann Hancock, the current Executive Director, and Mike Sandler founded it in 2001.

In 2005, ahead of the state’s target goals, all nine cities and the county itself adopted aggressive GHG emissions goals, to reduce emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2015.

The Climate Protection Campaign’s 2008 blueprint for the future, the Sonoma County Community Action Plan (http://coolplan.org/), a plan to realize those goals, led to the county’s creation of RCPA.

RCPA’s Mission, Goals, and Objectives (MGO), the countywide framework to achieve this 25% reduction target, as well as an additional reduction goal of 40% less GHGs by 2035, defines key objectives to reduce GHGs across several sectors: transportation, land use, energy efficiency and renewable energy, economic development, and natural resource management. It was inspired and informed by the Center for Climate Protection (CCP), whose grassroots work to inspire, align, and mobilize action was an important catalysts for community members and elected leaders.

The CCP was responsible for helping to establish Sonoma Clean Power, another key element in the 2008 Plan. Just this month Petaluma voted to join SCP; now all the county, except for Healdsburg, which has its own municipal power, can receive energy at least 30% lower in GHC emissions than PG&E’s at 5-8% less cost.

Other CCP programs helping to realize these goals include Carma, a real-time carpooling program using new software and a smartphone app to connect and reward carpoolers, and ECO2school, an award-winning student commute project encouraging students to walk, bike or carpool to reduce Sonoma County schools’ GHGs, which also has a comprehensive climate change education program focusing on student leadership and empowerment.

CCP is also working on accelerating the spread of EV (electrical vehicles) and implementing Sonoma County solutions elsewhere. Nearly 300 people from across the state attending CCP’s “The Business of Local Energy Symposium” in October in Petaluma learned first hand why  “Sonoma County is the California of California” in relation to climate protection.

CCP is currently raising funds to continue this vital work; a private donor will match gifts up to $20,000 through the end of January. Over the years several people have raised money for CCP through the Climate Ride (http://www.climateride.org/). This year you can join Kristin Berger, CCP’s Director of Development and Communication, as she rides from Eureka to San Francisco in May, or you can support her with a donation if you don’t ride.

 

©Tish Levee, 2014, all rights reserved.

Tish Levee raised money for Center for Climate Protection on the Climate Hike last August.