City Council approves sweeping climate action plan

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved its long-awaited plan to drastically reduce local greenhouse gas emissions in the hopes of lessening the worst effects of climate change, including extreme heat and sea level rise, on Long Beach.

Years in the making, the Long Beach Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is a nearly 900-page document that lays out a path for the city to meet the state’s emissions benchmarks, which were first laid out in 2016 with Senate Bill 32.

The CAAP is “the most significant” climate action that this city council will take, possibly since the city’s founding, Mayor Robert Garcia said.

“We are in a worldwide climate emergency that’s happening every single day,” said Garcia. “This is not a perfect plan … But it is an enormous step forward.”

Seventeen members of the public testified on the plan. All either supported the CAAP or called for officials to strengthen it, particularly in regard to the city’s continued oil drilling through 2035.

Ann Cantrell of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter called for amendments that would “end fossil fuel extraction” and plan for the “retreat” from areas of the city that are subject to sea level rise and increased flooding.

In February the Long Beach Sustainable City Commission called for the city to accelerate its abandonment of oil production as part of its climate change planning, which numerous commenters also mentioned.

The city’s goal by 2030 is that greenhouse gas emissions are 40% less than 1990 levels—a reduction of 192,659 metric tons.

City planners expect that much of those reductions will be achieved through Southern California Edison’s switch to an electricity supply that is expected to be 80% carbon-free by 2030.

The Water Department, one of the city’s larger Edison customers, will begin switching to 100% green power this year, City Manager Tom Modica told the City Council.

But residents will also have to help out, either by driving less or switching to electric vehicles.

To accomplish this, the CAAP calls for more emphasis on walkable, sustainable communities, as well as increased emphasis on public transit, Garcia said.

It’s not about suddenly taking away people’s cars, but creating a city where once a week, residents walk to work or the park, city planner Christopher Koontz explained.

The city expects sizable reductions by diverting commercial waste to recycling facilities (45,340 metric tons) as well as a green-waste program that could help keep nearly 40,000 metric tons of potential emissions from landfills. A reduction in local oil production could save the city about 41,740 metric tons of emissions, according to the CAAP.

All future projects in Long Beach that are already subject to the California Environmental Quality Act will now have to complete a separate CAAP checklist to ensure their greenhouse gas reductions, according to city officials.

The city will also create a nine-member Climate Action Office that will answer to the city manager and implement the new CAAP, according to city officials.

The CAAP outlines how extreme heat, rising sea levels, drought and worsening air pollution are expected to worsen throughout the rest of the century.

Sea level rise is already impacting Long Beach, according to the CAAP. But by 2030, annual king tide flooding will affect 1.3 million square feet of buildings, primarily in the Marina Pacifica area and on Shoreline Drive south of Ocean Boulevard, while another 9.5 million square feet of buildings in Naples, Belmont Shore and the Peninsula will be at risk for flooding from 100-year-storm surge, according to the CAAP.

Even the mildest sea level rise projections include considerable flooding at the Port of Long Beach.

North and West Long Beach are especially vulnerable to worsening air quality and extreme heat in large part because they lack the green space of other city regions—a result of the last century of discriminatory housing policies, according to the CAAP.

“Low-income communities of color were historically excluded from neighborhoods with less environmental pollution and greater public investment, and these practices partly explain why low-income communities of color today are still concentrated in the portions of the city with the poorest air quality and environmental health indicators,” states the CAAP.

Increased drought conditions will result in “regional drying,” which will affect the water supply for all of Long Beach. The city gets about 25% of its water supply from the Colorado River and another 15% from the Northern California Bay-Delta, according to the CAAP.

Though the state’s 40% reduction goal in water use has long been what city planners were aiming for, last week Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested raising that goal to 55%, according to the Associated Press.

In any case, the city also aspires to achieve “net-carbon neutrality” by 2045, which will require reducing greenhouse gases by another 1.5 million metric tons.

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