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Could A Green New Deal Help the North Bay?

By Robert Girling and Chris Yalonis

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of articles and comments about a Green New Deal. The concept spurred a resolution in Congress for a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society patterned in part on Roosevelt’s New Deal that brought the nation out of the Great Depression. The goal is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all. If we can mobilize the nation to address massive environmental, social and labor problems that already are harming the prosperity and security of the nation through a host of natural disasters such as the spate of California wildfires, we can simultaneously build the foundation for a prosperous new non-polluting economy.

This is among the topics that will be discussed on April 5 at Sonoma State University’sSustainable Enterprise Conference, a regional gathering of 300 leaders from business, government, education and community organizations. The conference starts at 7:30 a.m. with SSU President Judy Sakaki signing the “President’s Climate Leadership Commitment,” a document that commits the university to mitigating and adapting to changing climate by reducing carbon emissions as well as "integrating sustainability into education curriculum, expanding research efforts and public reporting and creating and revising an action plan."

The conference that follows will feature 12 panel presentations and World Café featuring experts such as state Sen. Bill Dodd, Sonoma County SupervisorJim Gore, Elizabeth Brown, president of Sonoma County Foundation, Greg Sarris, SSU professor and Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and Dr. Richard Heinberg, author and senior fellow of the Post Carbon Institute in Corvallis, Ore., who has written extensively on the Green new Deal.

The Green New Deal seeks to address climate change by directing federal dollars to restructure the economy meanwhile creating high-paying jobs in order to address the social inequities in our economy.

Many will question whether such an ambitious program is realistic? When FDR called on America to build 185,000 planes to fight the Nazi juggernaut, nearly every business leader, CEO and military general laughed at him. At the time, the U.S. had only managed to produce a paltry 3,000 planes in a year. Yet by the end of the war, we produced nearly 300,000 planes.

So what might the GND mean for North Bay?

Among the goals of the GND are first to move America to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. We are already leaders in this arena with Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power providing much of the region’s energy. But there is still much to be done. Think for a moment about the thousands of gasoline-powered vehicles clogging our freeways each day. Nearly 60 percent of North Bay emissions are from the transportation sector. Think also about the possibility of placing solar panels on thousands of roofs and using the energy to power our cars. Consider the opportunities that might be provided by EV adoption, autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles as well as employee commuting programs to reduce vehicle miles traveled.

And this leads us to another goal - to create millions of jobs for families that pay a decent wage. The Green New Deal calls for prioritizing investment and training, directed toward community resiliency. The fastest growing jobs in the nation are wind turbine technicians and solar panel installers.

Fortunately, the North Bay region is a national leader in resiliency and well placed to benefit from the knowledge base in the region. Many North Bay companies are creating new business models such as B-Corps and clean economy products and services including solar panel components, EV dealerships, and composting service.

If you are interested in learning more about the Green New Deal, come to the Sustainable Enterprise Conference at Sonoma State University on April 5 where you can engage discussions on a range of topics including:How to Build Resilience in a Fire Prone Landscape; The Business Case for Sustainable Practice; Social Equity in the North Bay; How to Foster Community Health and Happiness; How to Educate and Prepare our Workforce.

There is no time to waste.

The latest report by the International panel on Climate Change said global emissions of carbon must be cut by 40 to 60 percent by 2030. Since the US alone accounts for one-fifth of the world’s total CO2 emissions the world is counting on us to take the lead. We in the North Bay have an opportunity to be among leaders in addressing climate change to develop and share our technology, expertise and products with the rest of the world.

Robert Girling, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University.

Chris Yalonis is founder and president VenturePad Marin.

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