Sebastopol Adopts Climate Action Framework, Project Supported by RCPA in alignment with Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy

On July 19th, 2022, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously adopted the Sebastopol Climate Action Framework, a document that will guide the City as it works to address the climate emergency. The Climate Action Framework provides Sebastopol with the next steps towards reaching the goals of the Climate Emergency Resolution adopted in 2019, which included a goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2030, sequestering additional carbon from the atmosphere, preparing for current and future climate impacts, and centering equity and community engagement in the City’s ongoing climate actions. 

Sebastopol’s CivicSpark Fellow, Phoebe Goulden, led the development of the Sebastopol Climate Action Framework beginning in Fall 2021 and worked closely with the Sebastopol Climate Action Committee, Sebastopol Planning Department staff, and the Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) to assemble the plan. The Framework development process included comprehensive community engagement activities to understand better the concerns and priorities of Sebastopol community members in relation to climate change. These engagement activities included presentations to community-based organizations, holding a community workshop, soliciting input through a resident survey, and tabling at community events. This outreach was guided by a Community Engagement Strategy that was adopted in December 2021 to ensure that vulnerable populations were included throughout the effort.

Figure 1. Framework development process. More detail on the engagement process is available in Appendix C of the Framework.


What is the Climate Action Framework?

The Sebastopol Climate Action Framework is a key tool to aid the City and its residents in addressing the climate emergency. The Framework provides an overview of Sebastopol’s climate progress so far and sets community-driven goals for additional action in six areas: Transportation, Sustainable Land Use, Buildings and Clean Energy, Consumption and Waste, Community, and City Operations and Leadership.

Unlike a “climate action plan”, the Framework does not include specific actions that Sebastopol will take and is not certified under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The City of Petaluma adopted a similar approach in developing its Climate Emergency Framework in January 2021.


RCPA’s Role

RCPA was a key partner in the development of Sebastopol’s Climate Action Framework, hosting CivicSpark Fellow Phoebe Goulden in its Santa Rosa office for the 11-month CivicSpark service year. The Framework shares many of the goals of RCPA’s Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy, which was an important reference document throughout the Framework’s development. The four major areas of the Mobilization Strategy are Decarbonization, Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services, Resilience and Adaptation, and Equity and Community Engagement. To better integrate Sebastopol’s goals with regional efforts, in Appendix A of the Framework: Actions for Future Consideration, each potential action is matched to one of the Climate Mobilization Strategy initiative areas. \

It is our hope that Sebastopol’s Climate Action Framework can serve as a model for other jurisdictions that are committed to climate action but face the challenge of limited resources to address climate change. A Climate Action Framework or similar document can provide direction and momentum for action while requiring a fraction of the time and funding that a formal Climate Action Plan can take to complete. The Community Engagement Strategy and other resources from Sebastopol’s Climate Action Framework can also serve as a reference for other jurisdictions embarking on a similar process.


Next Steps

The Framework does not commit the City of Sebastopol to specific climate actions but instead provides the process and principles by which to evaluate potential actions. Therefore, an important next step is to determine priority actions for the City to take on moving forward. An initial list of actions that could help Sebastopol achieve the Framework’s goals is included in Appendix A of the Framework: Actions for Future Consideration. Over the next few months, Sebastopol’s Climate Action Committee (CAC) will evaluate and prioritize emission-reduction and preparedness strategies, including those in Appendix A. The CAC’s recommendations will be brought to the Sebastopol City Council for approval and appropriation of funds.

The Framework also recognizes the need for continued regional collaboration to address cross-jurisdictional topics such as county traffic patterns, emissions from the consumption of goods and services, watershed-level issues that cut across city boundaries, and more. As the regional organization dedicated to climate efforts, RCPA will continue to facilitate this collaboration through its jurisdictional members, agency partners, citizen involvement committees, and coordinated work with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. As part of this broader effort, the Sebastopol Climate Action Framework will allow the City, its residents, and its local community-based organizations to be leaders in combating climate change both within the city boundaries and across the entire county.

RCPA weighs in on CARB’s Draft 2022 Scoping Plan

RCPA recently submitted feedback to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan, urging more aggressive action to address the climate emergency. The Scoping Plan is important because it guides future State-level policy and funding decisions that are essential to our success in achieving its local climate goals.

RCPA’s most significant concern with the draft plan is that it doesn’t go far enough fast enough to support the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy and our goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.



What is the Scoping Plan and why does it matter?

CARB is required under AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, to develop a Scoping Plan that describes how California will meet its climate goals. The first Scoping Plan was released in 2008, and the most recent update was completed in 2017. 


The 2017 Scoping Plan evaluated progress toward the AB 32 goal of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020. It also provided a technologically feasible and cost-effective path to achieving the SB 32 target of reducing GHG emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Overview of the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan

For the first time, the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan evaluates scenarios to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 or 2045 by reducing GHG emissions and increasing carbon sequestration on natural and working lands. Previous scoping plans focused on reducing transportation, energy, and industrial emissions.

CARB’s proposed scenario achieves carbon neutrality by 2045 through these two means:

    1. Reducing GHG emissions by deploying a broad portfolio of existing and emerging fossil fuel alternatives and clean technologies, and 
    2. Increasing carbon sequestration by adopting land management activities that prioritize restoration and enhancement of natural systems to improve resilience to climate change impacts and capture and store atmospheric carbon in the ground. 

RCPA’s Response

While the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan includes many actions aligned with RCPA’s Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy, including the Priority GHG Reduction Strategies for Local Government Action in Appendix D, the proposed scenario does not define a pathway for California to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

To support Sonoma County’s ambitious climate goals and address the scientific imperative, Sonoma County needs State support to significantly scale up our local actions and more rapidly transition our economy from its dependence on fossil fuels. RCPA urged CARB to consider the inclusion of a new scenario that enables the State to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

What happens next?

A final version of the 2022 Scoping Plan is expected to go to the CARB board for approval later this year. RCPA will monitor the status of the plan and provide additional comments if necessary to ensure the plan supports our local climate goals.

Pulling Carbon Out of the Air to Protect Our Climate

Climate action is about more than reducing the pollution being released into our atmosphere. While our primary work has been focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and turning to carbon-free sources, we will also need to focus on removing GHGs that are already in our atmosphere. This is especially true if we want to move fast enough to become carbon neutral by 2030.

As part of the Climate Emergency Resolution adopted by the RCPA Board in September 2019, we developed a Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy. The overall goal of the strategy is to quickly reduce GHG emissions and to capture and store the remaining atmospheric carbon dioxide in order to reach net zero emissions by 2030. This goal is known as reaching “carbon neutrality” and is shared by many current climate action plans. In short, we need to reduce what we produce (GHG emissions), and then store away any excess emissions to reduce the long-term global warming potential of these atmospheric gasses.

With this goal in mind, the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy was adopted by the RCPA Board on March 8, 2021 and work is now transitioning to the development of more detailed cost estimates and implementation plans. The mobilization strategy is organized around four large initiative areas: decarbonization (reducing our emissions), carbon sequestration and ecosystem services (capturing and storing our emissions), resilience and adaptation (living with the impacts of climate change), and equity and community engagement (ensuring that all members of our community are included.)

This blog article focuses on the second initiative area of the mobilization strategy: Sequestration and Ecosystem Services. See our previous blog on Decarbonization for details on our work in this area.

The Earth has been sequestering carbon for over 3 billion years

First off, carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this process has already been taking place for over three billion years via photosynthesis in green plants. During this process,  carbon dioxide and water are converted to oxygen and simple sugars that allow the plant to grow and store carbon throughout its life. As long as the plant is actively growing, or the plant material is kept from decomposing, the absorbed  carbon remains in a stable form and is locked away from increasing atmospheric global warming.

It is worth noting that there are numerous other methods of carbon sequestration being researched across the globe – ranging from natural methods such as forest protection and urban tree planting, to more technologic methods such as direct air capture and direct ocean capture. Carbon dioxide that is captured and stored using technological methods can then be injected into underground reservoirs, or be processed into stable materials that provide long-term storage such as concrete building blocks or sidewalk pavers.

Locally, our mobilization strategy is focused exclusively on methods of storing carbon naturally through forest protection, tree planting, and supporting local agricultural producers to plan, implement, and scale carbon sequestration in their ongoing operations. Carbon sequestration is a critical part of achieving the Sonoma Climate Mobilization goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. There are existing efforts on rural lands to increase sequestration, with the potential to increase sequestration in the urban parts of the county as well. Sonoma County’s forestlands and wetlands, especially the Sonoma Baylands, provide additional capacity to sequester carbon.

Ecosystem services make our lives possible

A second key aspect of this initiative is the role that ecosystem services play in providing vital benefits for human survival. There has been extensive work undertaken over the past decade by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District to identify and quantify the benefits of ecosystem services provided by natural and working lands.

Some of these benefits include improving water quality and delivery, preventing soil erosion or accumulation, keeping disease organisms in check, assisting with nutrient cycling, providing the physical materials that society uses (such as lumber and food), and maintaining genetic and biological diversity. Another important function that ecosystem services provide is allowing humans to interact meaningfully with nature, such as providing places for recreation, spiritually significant natural areas, and opportunities for scientific research and education. Taken together, the combined benefits of carbon sequestration and ecosystem services highlight the important nexus of climate protection, ecological biodiversity, and human health.

What actions are first and who should be involved?

Within the sequestration initiative of the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy, there are three main strategies identified and 16 specific objectives that RCPA intends to tackle over the upcoming years. Upon adoption, our Board prioritized a subset of actions for immediate action during 2021-2022.

The Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services initiative covers protecting existing carbon stocks, increasing those carbon stocks, and scaling up infrastructure for sequestration (see full list below).  The first objective to prioritize under the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy is Objective 8.1: Support local agricultural producers to plan, implement, and scale carbon sequestration. We expect to form a working group and begin holding meetings later this spring to further explore this objective along with the other priority actions from the Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy.

The scope of our partners working on carbon sequestration and ecosystem services is broad but is far from complete. You can learn more and fill out our community survey to stay in touch at the Sonoma Climate Mobilization page. If you know of an organization that should be on the contact list below, please send an email to so that we can invite them to our next working group meeting. Only by working together collectively and comprehensively can we begin to approach our goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2030.


Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy – Carbon Sequestration Partners

  • Permit Sonoma
  • Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
  • Sonoma County Department of Agriculture
  • Sonoma County Regional Parks
  • Zero Waste Sonoma
  • Sonoma Resource Conservation District
  • Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • UC Cooperative Extension
  • Rebuild North Bay Foundation
  • Good Fire Alliance
  • LandPaths
  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Audubon Canyon Ranch
  • CalFire
  • Bodega Land Trust
  • Greenbelt Alliance
  • American Farmland Trust
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers
  • Fire Safe Sonoma
  • Resilient Landscapes Coalition
  • Renewable Sonoma
  • Carbon Cycle Institute
  • Sonoma County Farm Bureau
  • Sonoma County Winegrowers
  • North Bay Conservation Corps
  • Safe Ag Safe Schools (SASS) coalition
  • ReScape California
  • California Landscape Contractors Association
  • Russian River Watershed Association
  • REcology
  • Zero Foodprint
  • The Center for Social and Environmental Stewardship
  • Nursery at Sonoma County Jail Industries
  • California Native Plant Society Milo Baker Chapter
  • Point Blue Conservation Science (STRAW program)
  • Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation
  • Petaluma Wetlands Alliance
  • Daily Acts
  • Sonoma County Master Gardeners
  • ReScape California
  • California Landscape Contractors Association
  • Green Garden Group
  • Los Cien
  • North Bay Organizing Project
  • Latino Service Providers
  • La Plaza
  • Sunrise Movement


Initiative: Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services

7 Strategy 7: Protect Existing Carbon Stocks
7.1 Support the
implementation of forest management practices that protect existing carbon
stocks by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Increase carbon
sequestration by growing large, mature trees and moving surplus biomass to
the soil carbon pool through mulching in place, prescribed fire, conservation
burns, and off site uses, including compost and mulch production.
7.2 Work with the
Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District on strategic
land protection and stewardship actions that increase carbon sequestration
and minimize conversion to land uses that have a lower capacity to sequester
7.3 Work with Permit
Sonoma to implement existing and develop new land use policies (e.g., Sonoma
County General Plan, Williamson Act, etc.) that result in measurable carbon
7.4 Implement
countywide fire-safe landscape practices, tree care and protection, and
compost/mulch applications
7.5 Partner with
outdoor recreation and environmental education partners to offer tours of
sequestration projects to members of frontline communities.
8 Strategy 8: Increase Carbon Stocks
* 8.1 Support local agricultural producers to plan, implement, and
scale carbon sequestration.
8.2 Increase our urban
forest cover starting with communities impacted by recent fires and in
frontline communities.
8.3 Implement
regenerative land management practices at the municipal scale, including
practices that draw down carbon, reduce GHG emissions, and improve watershed
and human health.
8.4 Develop engagement
strategies that specifically target members of frontline communities to
increase urban forest cover, implement regenerative land management
practices, and improve human health.
9 Strategy 9: Scale Up Infrastructure for Sequestration
9.1 Create a
“sequester local” program to help Sonoma County businesses reinvest
carbon-offset dollars within the community.
9.2 Secure permanent
Resource Conservation District funding for scaling carbon farming, starting
with $2 million and increasing to $20 million per year within the next ten
9.3 Scale up the
infrastructure necessary to fully implement Carbon Farm Plans.
9.4 Develop a
comprehensive residential carbon gardening education campaign.
9.5 Develop a carbon
sequestration training for landscape professionals, and County and municipal
parks and recreation staff.
9.6 Use policies,
civic incentives, and educational efforts to take action and build civic
engagement toward achieving Sonoma County’s ambitious climate action goals.
9.7 Implement
additional equity recommendations identified by the Climate Action Advisory
Committee and other community partners in Strategy 12: Engage, Educate,
Empower for Equitable Climate Action.
* Priority RCPA Objective for 2021-2022