Nov 14 2011

Opinion: More City Action Needed on Environmental Issues

Group Urges City to Hire Sustainability Coordinator

The following letter was received on November 11, 2011 from a group of Piedmont residents.  NOTE: The City Council passed the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy at its meeting on November 7, 2011. 

Dear City Council,

We’re writing in support of the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy (EPPP) coming before you on Monday, and also to ask that the City place more priority on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions reductions.  Piedmont had a lot to be proud about when the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and Environmental Task Force (ETF) recommendations were approved almost two years ago.  And it is good to see elements of those – such as this EPPP — being taken on by staff as time permits, given that the Sustainability Coordinator that both the CAP and ETF recommended was not hired due to budget issues.  But it is time to take these initiatives out of the “slow track,” low priority position that they have been in, and bring them front and center on the City agenda.

We don’t know if you saw this in last Friday’s Chronicle, but the Department of Energy has just released the figures for global CO2 emissions for 2010, and they show the largest annual increase on record.  As the newspaper puts it, “this is a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.”  It goes on to say, “The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst-case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.” This is of great concern, and means that our leaders at all levels – from the national to the local – as well as ordinary citizens need to step up our efforts to create policies, products and lifestyle changes that will reduce our level of CO2 emissions.

Here in Piedmont, where the majority of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from residential sources, an important part of the effort to reduce these emissions is going to involve engaging the community with these issues and modeling examples of steps that residents can take.  One way to do this is that when policies such as this EPPP for City purchases are put forward, every effort should be made to engage the community in understanding what the policy is and exactly how it is going to reduce CO2 emissions.  Because the government sector is so small in Piedmont, perhaps the greatest potential impact of this EPPP policy would be in serving as a role model for how residents can be making changes in their own purchasing and consumption practices.

Unfortunately, that opportunity was lost in the manner in which this EPPP was brought before the public – via an announcement two days before it was to come up on the Council agenda.  This did not give enough time for the community to read it, reflect on, or engage with it.  Perhaps subsequent publicity can accomplish some of this, but we were very disappointed that the fact that this very important policy was coming up on the Council agenda was not given more advance notice.  It gave the impression that City’s main concern is in complying with its legal obligation to the CAP, but that it isn’t terribly concerned with the larger goal (of actively engaging our community in reducing our GHG emissions) that the CAP is simply a policy expression of.

So, yes, we do ask you to approve this EPPP.  It is a good policy, based on a template that professionals in the field at StopWaste developed, and which most other Bay Area cities have already adopted. We appreciate the work that Piedmont staff has put into it.

We also strongly urge the Council to

–         Reconsider hiring a Sustainability Coordinator, as recommended by both the CAP and ETF.  There is currently not sufficient staff time to implement either of these to their full potential. Budget times are still hard, but we need to be looking towards the future, and this means taking climate change issues very seriously and finding a way to fit them in.

–         Request that a Sustainability Commission be formed, to advise staff on implementation of the CAP and ETF recommendations.  Piedmont has quite a number of experts on these issues who could serve on this commission.  If a Sustainability Coordinator was hired, the problem with staff time needed to prepare for this committee’s meetings would be resolved.

–         Request that future policies and progress reports related to the CAP and ETF be more fully publicized to the community.  Piedmont Connect would be happy to assist with this.  We have over 250 members at this point, as well as active groups in the areas of Waste Reduction, Energy & Housing/Building, and Gardening and Landscaping.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.


Margaret Ovenden, Debbie Pfeiffer, Terry Smith, Kristin Hull, Barbara Eisenbach, Bob Eisenbach, Carole Parker, Sondra Nappel, Kimberly Moses, Tracey Woodruff, Julie Caskey, Gabriel Kra

(This letter expresses the personal opinions of the authors.  All statements made are the opinion of the writers and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)


2 Responses to “Opinion: More City Action Needed on Environmental Issues”

  1. I think that hiring a Sustainability Coordinator would be a huge waste of taxpayer money.

  2. Without funding, I agree with jack, although I wouldn’t call it a huge waste. Council discussion of hiring for this position was always predicated on obtaining state or federal funding given to states through the stimulus program and that has fallen off. Alternatively, Piedmont could do what most East Bay communities have done and that is appoint a Sustainability Commission supported by staff time through funding intended for implementation of green and waste reduction programs. For example, Piedmont receives a sizeable franchise fee through our waste contract and some of those funds could be used. And even that may not be necessary. Many of Piedmont’s CAP and ETF goals will be met through private-sector improvements in energy technology implemented through our building code. Many experts in this area reside in town and could meet on a quarterly basis to assist and inform staff on upgrading city code. No need to hire, just convene experts in town to advise staff and council.

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