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.

Bans Against the Construction of New Gas Stations Spread throughout Sonoma County

It is indisputable that a climate emergency threatens the natural and human-built environments. All nine incorporated jurisdictions plus the County of Sonoma have adopted resolutions confirming this fact. The effects of global warming are already visible locally, with more dire impacts predicted to come in the near future. If we want to slow the increasing threat of climate change, as well as adapt to the altered ecological conditions before us, we need to take high-impact societal-wide actions immediately.

Ironically, the most needed actions may not provide immediate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term, but are critical to ensure the elimination of long-term emissions potential. In other words, our near-term decisions have long-term consequences. This is especially true in relation to infrastructure upgrades and equipment installations that can potentially impact our behavior patterns for decades to come.

We see evidence for this fact in our work around converting buildings to be all-electric and transforming our transportation system. Moving away from natural gas appliances in residential buildings and installing high-efficiency electric alternatives for heating, cooling, hot water, clothes drying, and cooking are key capital decisions with long-term implications. Once new equipment is purchased and installed, it will be used for many years to come. The same long-term lock-in effect can be seen in our transportation systems as well.

Underground gasoline storage tanks have an expected service life of 40 years. Any new gas stations built now will have the potential to continue pumping fossil fuels for the next four decades. That puts the expected life of any new station many, many years past our current climate goals that have been set for 2030, 2040, and 2050. To reduce this long-term potential for additional fossil fuel use, multiple local jurisdictions have either adopted or are considering adopting bans on the construction of any new gas stations and the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure at any existing stations.

Sonoma County: A National Leader

Starting in February 2019, a grassroots community-based organization called the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations (CONGAS) has been working to stop the construction of new gas stations in Sonoma County. After successfully protesting the construction of several proposed stations, a major victory came in March 2021 when the City of Petaluma adopted a permanent ban on the construction of any new stations within their city limits. This act made Petaluma the first city in the United States to enact such a ban.

Discussion followed at the next several Regional Climate Protection Authority board meetings on how to support other jurisdictions that were interested in following Petaluma’s lead. In September 2021, the RCPA Board adopted a resolution urging the County and the local incorporated jurisdictions to adopt the prohibition. Coordination meetings among municipal planning staff were held to share available resources, identify policy constraints, and identify subsequent actions.

Since that time, several additional jurisdictions have taken steps forward. The City of Rohnert Park adopted a permanent ban on the construction of new gas stations in March 2022, after passing a temporary moratorium the previous month. This action was followed by a ban in the City of Sebastopol that was adopted by the City Council in April 2022. Additionally, the Town of Windsor is bringing an item to their council shortly, with Santa Rosa and Cotati expected to follow later this year.

The table below shows the current status of local bans on the construction of new gas stations:

Jurisdiction Adoption of Bans on the Construction of New Gas Stations (as of April 20, 2022)
City of Cloverdale No action taken yet.
City of Cotati Draft ordinance being developed by Planning Department staff; No date set.
City of Healdsburg No action taken yet.
City of Petaluma Permanent ban approved by City Council on March 1, 2021.
City of Rohnert Park Permanent ban approved by City Council on March 22, 2022.
City of Santa Rosa Direction given by Climate Action Subcommittee on Feb. 9, 2022 to move forward with drafting ordinance and present to Planning Commission; No date set.
City of Sebastopol Permanent ban approved by City Council on April 19, 2022.
City of Sonoma No action taken yet.
Town of Windsor Direction given by City Council on Nov. 3, 2021 to move forward with drafting code; No date set.
County of Sonoma Broad support from Board of Supervisors on January 25, 2022; To be discussed as part of April 2022 General Plan Scoping Workshop to receive staff direction from BOS.
Regional Climate Protection Authority Adopted a resolution on September 13, 2021 urging the County and incorporated jurisdictions to adopt a prohibition on the construction of new gas stations.

Moving the Needle

Given that transportation accounts for over 60% of our local community greenhouse gas emissions, multiple actions are needed to meet our long-term climate goals. In addition to our work on banning the construction of new gas station, RCPA is partnering with our colleagues at Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) to implement strategies from the 2050 Comprehensive Transportation Plan, Vision Zero Action Plan, and Shift Sonoma County Plan that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making it easier and safer to get around without a car and accelerating the transition to electric vehicles. Starting later this year, we will also work with SCTA staff as they develop a new Countywide Active Transportation (CAT) Plan in partnership with multiple local jurisdictions.

These efforts are a valuable and needed complement to the work on banning the construction of new gas stations. We are working diligently to move both fronts forward in short order. Very shortly, we hope to be able to say that Sonoma County is the first county in the nation where all local jurisdictions agree that no new gas station infrastructure should be built or expanded in the face of our current climate emergency.

Onward!

Accelerating EV Adoption in Sonoma County

Sonoma County’s emissions from transportation account for roughly 60 percent of total emissions, according to RCPA’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory.

To meet RCPA’s 2030 goal of achieving carbon neutrality, we must transform our transportation system from one based on fossil fuel powered cars to one that is multimodal, with more feasible clean power options for getting around in Sonoma County. These options include safer bicycle and pedestrian routes, improved transit service, and replacement of fossil fuel powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs).

To achieve this goal, RCPA’s Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy includes two strategies focused on changing how we get around in Sonoma County:

  1. Drive Less Sonoma County – Make it easier to get around Sonoma County without a car.
  2. EV Access for All Partnership – Accelerate the transition to 100 percent electric vehicles (EVs) for all transportation needs not otherwise met by biking or walking.

This post will focus on RCPA’s work to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel powered to electric vehicles.

Over the last few years, RCPA has worked to provide education and resources to help local drivers transition to EVs and to increase the number of publicly accessible EV charging stations in Sonoma County. For example, RCPA:

  • Implemented the Sonoma EV 101 service – A 24/7 responsive online knowledge base for common electric vehicle questions. The knowledge base includes articles that address three core questions: 1. What kind of EVs can I buy? 2. Where can I charge them? And 3. What rebates and incentives are available?
  • Promoted workplace charging stations by contacting over 40 private and public employers to share information about workplace charging solutions and sources of grant funding to assist employers in installing charging stations.
  • Refined existing EV charging station siting analysis with an improved online map that shows opportunities for charging in Sonoma County. Using this updated map, the team developed a list of the top 20 electric vehicle charging station siting zones in Sonoma County and presented them to elected representatives of each jurisdiction along with EV charging network providers.

How many EVs are there in Sonoma County?

At the end of 2020, there were almost 10,000 EVs registered in Sonoma County (figure 1) [1]. An additional 1,440 EVs were sold in Sonoma County during the first half of 2021.

Figure 1: EVs Registered in Sonoma County as of December 31, 2020

The rate of EV adoption will need to increase significantly to meet the goal of 100,000 registered EVs in Sonoma County by 2030 (figure 2). This goal was established in the 2017 Shift Sonoma County Low Carbon Transportation Action Plan.

In its Electric Vehicle 2021 report, the Bloomberg New Energy Forecast (BNEF) predicted that the global outlook for EV adoption is improving based on a combination of policy support, improvements in battery performance, decreases in battery cost, expansion of EV charging infrastructure, and growing commitments from automakers to transition their fleets to EVs.[2]

The number of available EV models has increased significantly from under 100 models in 2015 to over 350 in 2020. Over the same period, the average range of EVs increased from roughly 130 to 210 miles.[3]

An often overlooked benefit of EVs is the money they save consumers in ongoing fuel and maintenance costs. In a recent study of relative ownership costs of currently available EVs and comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, Consumer Reports found the following:[4]

  • Seven of the nine most popular EVs on the market cost first-time owners less than the best-selling, and top-rated ICE vehicles in their class, in many cases matching or exceeding the performance of some of the top-performing ICE vehicles in their class.
  • Lifetime ownership costs for all nine of the most popular EVs on the market under $50,000 are many thousands of dollars cheaper than the best-selling and top-rated ICE vehicles in their class, with typical savings ranging between $6,000 and $10,000.

The rapid advances in the EV market combined with State and federal policy and funding support will make EVs accessible to a broader range of people and increase the likelihood of Sonoma County meeting its 2030 EV adoption goal.

Where are the EV charging stations?

The Shift plan set a goal of 11,000 public and shared private charging stations by 2030. As of July 1, 2021, Sonoma County had a total of 791 charging stations, the majority of which are Level 2 (figure 3). Level 2 chargers can provide about 14 to 35 miles of range per hour of charging compared with about 5 miles of range per hour for Level 1 chargers. DC Fast chargers are able to charge an EV to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes. [5]

Figure 3: Public and Shared Private EV Chargers in Sonoma County as of July 1, 2021

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of EV charging stations in Sonoma County increased as shown in Figure 4. New EV charging stations were installed in portions of the county such as the coast that previously did not have access to public EV charging stations.

A map with more details on EV charging stations is available at https://www.plugshare.com/.

Figure 4: Sonoma County EV Charging Stations 2018 vs. 2021

What will it take to meet our 2030 EV goal?

The transition to EVs appears to be at a tipping point due to increased awareness of the climate crisis, rapid expansion of EV models and battery range, and supportive public policies like Governor Newsom’s executive order banning sales of new gas powered vehicles in 2035. What needs to happen here in Sonoma County to achieve our local goal of 100,000 registered EVs by 2030?

One critical action will be to make EVs more accessible and affordable to all Sonoma County residents. Early adopters of EVs have been primarily higher income households with access to private charging in single family homes. To reach Sonoma County’s 2030 EV adoption target, EVs must become more accessible to lower income households and residents of multifamily units.

RCPA is working with the Decommissioning Internal-Combustion Vehicles (DIVE) Group at Stanford University [6] to support community engagement on the topic of EVs in Sonoma County. RCPA wants to increase its understanding of the needs and barriers relative to EV adoption in low income communities in order to design more effective EV policies and programs.

RCPA will also continue working with local jurisdictions and partner agencies to facilitate the deployment of more public EV charging stations, with a focus on workplace and multifamily locations. RCPA plans to research policy options to require installation of EV charging infrastructure and equipment in public locations as well as research upcoming funding opportunities to accelerate deployment.

Reducing transportation emissions in Sonoma County is challenging. Electrifying our transportation system is one key strategy to get us to zero emissions. We also need to create more options for getting around without a car and will explore these opportunities in future blog posts.

In the meantime, let us know your ideas for lightening the carbon footprint of our transportation system by sending an email to info@rcpa.ca.gov.


References:

[1] California Energy Commission (2021). California Energy Commission Zero Emission Vehicle and Infrastructure Statistics. Data last updated 4/30/21. Retrieved 8/23/21 from https://www.energy.ca.gov/zevstats

[2] Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021, BloombergNEF, https://about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/

[3] IEA, Electric car models available globally and average range, 2015-2020, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/electric-car-models-available-globally-and-average-range-2015-2020-2

[4] Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today’s Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers, Consumer Reports, October 2020, https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/EV-Ownership-Cost-Final-Report-1.pdf

[5] California Energy Commission (2021). California Energy Commission Zero Emission Vehicle and Infrastructure Statistics. Data last updated 7/1/21. Retrieved 8/23/21 from http://www.energy.ca.gov/zevstats.

[6] More information on the Decommissioning Internal-Combustion Vehicles Group is available at https://dived8.sites.stanford.edu/