Nov 14 2017

Piedmonters Discuss Climate Action Plan and Ways to Improve Environmental Responsibility

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the City of Piedmont Planning Department and the Climate Action Plan Task Force held a community meeting in the Piedmont Community Hall from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

At the meeting, speakers discussed Piedmont’s new Climate Action Plan, including the reasons it will be introduced and how it will change the city. These speakers included Climate Action Task Force members, a program director at a UC Berkeley research energy lab, an East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) board member, and others. Attendees asked these speakers questions, and at the end of the meeting, attendees got into small groups for discussion.

According to the first speaker, a member of the Climate Action Task Force, Margaret Ovenden, Piedmont’s first Climate Action Plan was adopted in 2010, with the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15% below the 2005 levels by 2020. Piedmont has met this goal.

The new plan, Climate Action Plan 2.0 as Ovenden calls it, is specially tailored to Piedmont’s needs, hoping to have the city meet the new California goals. The Task Force has been meeting since March to create the plan, which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below the 2005 levels by 2030, and 80% below the 2005 levels by 2050.

The Climate Action Task Force expects to act on November 28 to recommend to the Piedmont City Council an adoption of the draft plan The Task Force will present a final draft of the plan to the City Council in mid December. After having the public review the plan, it will again be presented to the City Council for final adoption in January 2018.

Several attendees of the Nov. 7 meeting asked questions concerning when the public could see and comment on the plan. When I interviewed Ovenden after the meeting, she explained the importance of hearing the public’s opinions.

“I’d like to condense [the plan] and get it out to the community more,” Ovenden said. “It is really important for people to understand it, especially as we are heading more towards electrification. We will be bringing [the plan] out for public comment, encouraging people to comment.”

Another new development discussed at the meeting was East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). Board member of EBCE and City Council member Tim Rood said that Piedmont will soon switch to get their electricity from renewable sources. EBCE will allow public agencies to purchase electricity for residents and business, providing an alternative to the usual investor owned utilities.

All Piedmont residents will be switched over to the new energy plan hopefully by the spring of 2018, Rood said. Residents will be provided with three options, with the cost of one option being almost identical to the PG&E program.

Another speaker, Chris Jones, who is a program director at a research energy lab at UC Berkeley, presented data from Piedmont. The data taken from 2015 showed that Piedmont’s main greenhouse gas emission sectors include home energy, buildings, and transportation.

Piedmont’s average carbon footprint is higher than the typical global household. For example, Oakland residents have a footprint about half the size of Piedmont residents, according to data Jones presented from PG&E. In Piedmont, Jones said the highest greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation, due to high amounts of air travel. However, Piedmont’s electricity emissions are below the global average, since some residents can afford solar panels.

Jones said that ways to reduce Piedmont’s emissions include electrifying homes, reducing transportation, getting goods from local sources, and eating less meat.

Jones’s suggestions caused me to ask a question at the end of the meeting. Many of the suggestions outlined in the plan are geared towards adult homeowners, so I asked what teenager students can do to reduce emissions. The speakers responded that students should stop driving to school. Considering how small Piedmont is, it is very easy to walk from place to place, so I agree that this is a good option for students.

One speaker, Sarah Moe, said that teenagers can influence their parents, by discussing these issues with them, pushing them to change. I agree with this response, since in discussions with my parents, I can persuade them towards becoming greener.

Piedmont’s plan, Ovenden said, is truly a community plan that requires residents to take initiative. Unlike other cities, Piedmont lacks major industry and commercial areas, so the greenhouse emissions are primarily from residents themselves. “[The task force] just realized that this plan would not be successful unless we got the community more involved,” Ovenden said. “Even though we are not quite done with the plan, we wanted to start sharing the main points and directions that this is going to be heading.”

Moe discussed the importance of shifting cultural norms in Piedmont in regards to climate change. When implementing the plan, she hopes that by working together, it will create safer, more resilient neighborhoods, boost neighborliness and social cohesion, and preserve the future for Piedmont’s children.

In the small discussions at the end of the meeting, my group talked about how important it is for the community to understand how to implement the plan in their lives. We also discussed the importance of people globally understanding climate change, which is best implemented through education. I brought up the issue of the lack of uniform education on human caused climate change. My group agreed that the best way to make steps towards all communities having climate action plans is through education.

 I am glad that I attended the climate change meeting since it opened my eyes to the ways Piedmont works towards becoming greener. All community members should attend these Climate Action meetings so they can understand how the City’s changes will affect them. For this plan, Ovenden said that it will take time to be fully implemented, so residents have time to learn about it. People can join the mailing list to hear about more meetings in the future.

“The state of the climate is so desperate,” Ovenden said in the interview. “It is very, very serious, and it is kind of shocking that the majority of the people aren’t getting it. We have an opportunity still to change things, to not have such terrible effects of climate change.”

by Margo Rosenbaum, Piedmont High School Senior


On November 7th, a Climate Action Committee Meeting was held at the Piedmont Community Hall. The meeting was open to the public and was organized by the Climate Action Task Force with the goal to educate residents on Climate Action Plan 2.0 and its schedule for ratification.

Climate Action meetings have been occurring monthly since March of this year. The Climate Action Plan 2.0 is Piedmont’s framework to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2040.  This plan ¨2.0¨ is customized to the emission patterns of Piedmont, which are entirely unique from any other city in the Bay Area.

Task Force member Margaret Ovenden voiced that because Piedmont is almost entirely residential, the plan is very tailored to empowering the community as a whole to change its habits. The draft plan is in line with California’s goal of reaching an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. Tentative dates were set for the plan’s review by the city government, the public comment period, revision period and the hopeful ratification. The Task Force hopes the plan would be in effect by 2018.

The first speakers capitalized on the benefits of acting now and identified the community’s main sources of emissions. An analyst, Christopher Jones, from Cool Climate Network provided data showing that Piedmont’s leading emissions source is from transportation with air travel being a factor significantly higher than in other cities. The analyst clarified that the data wasn’t actual data collected from the City of Piedmont directly but were estimates created from other American cities that receive similar incomes. This upset some audience members who asked how achievable benchmarks could be created for Piedmont with information that is not about the city’s emissions specifically. Jones claimed he understood the concern, but the data was a good starting point. Jones applauded the city’s popular use of solar energy, but revealed our emission levels were far greater than our much larger neighbor, Oakland.

Many solutions were discussed from carbon offsets to counter the air travel discrepancy, heat pumps to utilize our strength in solar power, and an upcoming opportunity for residents to get up to 100% renewable energy with East Bay Community Energy. East Bay Community Energy is a service that would be selected by default for all Piedmont residents starting in 2018. There are multiple options with varying percentages of renewable energy. EBCE is predicted to be less expensive than PG&E services and more eco-friendly with PG&E being only 30% renewable. EBCE allows an entire city to purchase energy from a renewable source, rather than have a private company, like PG&E, be a middleman allowing residents little choice in where their power comes from.

Pam Hirtzer, a resident of Piedmont for over twenty years, was adamant about EBCE and claimed she would get it immediately. Hirtzer stated she has been interested in climate action for 10-15 years and shared that just days ago she had tried to purchase an electric car; however, it was too expensive. Looking for other ways to invest in green energy, she attended the meeting. She expressed excitement about the Climate Action Plan 2.0 and was eager to see it in full when it is released for public comment in late December.

The meeting concluded with a workshop in which the attendees got into groups and shared ideas about how to make Piedmont a more environmentally-friendly and climate-conscious city. Residents young and old spoke with Task Force members on ways they wished their schools, homes, and business could be more eco-friendly. Ending the meeting in a hopeful dialogue, I mentioned that environmental education should not be an elective but should be ingrained in the curriculum. Piedmont Middle School maintains a ¨Green Team¨ class for all students but that requirement does not continue to the High School.  I have faith that it soon will.

by Claire deVroede, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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