San Jose Lawmakers Ask to Declare a Climate Emergency

San Jose may join the growing ranks of cities that have declared a climate emergency.

At the City Council’s agenda-setting committee on Wednesday, Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco and Dev Davis will call on other city leaders to adopt the climate emergency declaration and recommit themselves to creating a more sustainable San Jose.

“The growing affliction of wildfires, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters sharpens our focus on our new reality: we live in a climate emergency and must accelerate our efforts to combat it,” Liccardo said. “In the absence of federal leadership, San Jose will continue to carry the standard for US cities in reducing green house gas emissions and promoting sustainability.”

The plan lays out a slew of priorities to make San Jose more green, including providing 100 percent carbon-free power in the next two years through San Jose Clean Energy.

Councilors say that two of San Jose’s largest sources for emissions are buildings and transportation. To negate some of the impact, they want to make sure new city facilities are “all-electric, zero-net-carbon.” They’re also hoping to ban natural gas in new construction city-wide by Jan. 1, 2023.

“Ensuring that our city is doing everything within its power to lower emissions and provide 100 percent carbon-free energy to our community is critical to meet our city goals and take this global warming challenge head-on,” Carrasco said.

Climate Smart San Jose—a Paris Agreement-like policy—may also be expanded under the proposal. If the initiative is approved by the full council, city officials will explore adding a new zero-waste element. Councilors backing the sustainability blueprint said they want to know how much of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from solid waste and how they can implement zero waste strategies.

“Climate Smart San Jose is an ambitious plan to drastically reduce air pollution; we have set doable goals that are attainable if every resident takes immediate action,” Kerrie Romanow, San Jose's environmental services director, said. “Together, we can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and help the planet by biking, walking, conserve water and energy.”

“San Jose has a reputation for being at the forefront of environmental stewardship and our leadership is needed now more than ever,” Davis added.

The city would also review its investment portfolio to “identify holdings with direct investments in fossil fuel companies.” Those investments would end and the city would explore investing in opportunities such as renewable energy and clean technology.

Liccardo, Jimenez, Peralez, Carrasco and Davis want the process to be collaborative and equitable by ensuring that communities of color, the elderly, disabled, immigrants and low-wage workers also benefit from the new policies.

“Climate change is a global emergency that needs to be addressed immediately and aggressively,” Jimenez said. "San Jose is positioned to lead in efforts toward equitable solutions that benefit all of our communities.”

Lastly, the councilors want to explore supporting a future federal tax on carbon-based fuels. They referenced HR 763—the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act—and said they wanted to make sure the policy would be “designed to minimally disrupt the economy while sending a ... price signal to businesses to develop and use non-carbon-based energy resources.”

“We are proactively working on implementing projects and policies to reduce emissions in the two most significant sources of emissions: buildings and transportation,” Peralez said. “Despite the current federal administration’s efforts to roll back environmental progress, San Jose remains unwavering in our commitment to protect our environment and create sustainability for future generations.”

If the full council approves the plan, San Jose will join nearly 1,000 local governments across 18 countries that have issued similar climate emergency declarations.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

18 Comments

  1. How about we repeal HOV lane access for single-occupancy “clean air” vehicles that are… still made of oil, that rest on tires made of oil, that roll on a road surface made of oil. Fewer cars on the road is why carpool lanes were created, start there with your save the planet rhetoric. No more empty hyprotical doubletalk from the city and state.

  2. Virtue signaling stupidity. Let’s fire them all and bring in people who will govern the CITY of San Jose.

  3. The homeless are polluting our neighborhoods and waterways where they are becoming a health hazard. And your plan is?

  4. Get ready for an even higher cost of living in San Jose. Building new homes will be more expensive (don’t forget new statewide solar panel mandate adding $20-30k/unit) but with the newly passed statewide rent control, that’s unlikely to be much of an issue as developers flee.

  5. Glad that our local leaders are stepping up and recognizing that the climate is in crisis, and are willing to do something about it. Would be cool, too, if it attracted Greta Thunberg to visit SJ, who’s in the US now. Would also be cool to see our local leaders call out the domestic terrorists like SF did last week.

  6. Speaking of climate emergencies, the California recycling program for bottles and cans seems to be dead.

    The recycling centers in my area have ALL closed down reportedly because the business running the centers has gone out of business.

    Meanwhile, stashes of recyclable bottles and cans around the neighborhood are getting bigger and bigger.

    Also getting bigger is the pile of money the state of California is collecting for the CRV deposits paid by consumers.

    I’m worried that California is collecting money for services that are not being provided.

    I’m also worried that not recycling beverage containers will ultimately push the planet past the tipping point and cause runaway global warming.

    I’m MORE than worried. I’M FEARFUL!

  7. I’ll believe that global warming is a problem when the politicians and rich movie starts who are saying it’s a problem start acting like it is a problem

  8. How serious can this problem REALLY be? A. that planet has undergone “climate change” for millions of years. Does humanity cause some climate change? probably – how much? the REAL problem is NOT climate or the weather – – the #1 problem facing the planet is – – – there are too many f-ing people on the planet. But NO politician will touch that issue. B. do you suppose carbon emissions are really a threat? enough so that all liberal media, movie stars and political hucksters go off to global conferences in their private yachts, helicopters and jets — SUCKERS! they don’t give a sh*t – -they just want new ways to put their hands in your pants and grab more- – – $$. Q?? Does Al Gore really own many houses – one of which is the largest in Tenn.? C. are all the Dem Presidential candidates who are whining about climate change REALLY flying all over preaching this catastrophe in private jets? Really??? Really??

    • You may have a point, but remember that Greta took a solar powered sailing ship to get to the US from Europe. When she goes to South America later, she will also be sure to do it the lowest possible carbon way, too.

      We old folks caused the problem, but it will be up to the kids to solve it. Mainly because they are the ones that have to live with the consequences.

      • > When she goes to South America later, she will also be sure to do it the lowest possible carbon way, too.

        Well, notwithstanding Greta’s good intentions and energetic virtue signalling, she’s fighting an uphill battle.

        Carbon is the second most abundant element in the human body and the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon

        “Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Carbon’s abundance, its unique diversity of organic compounds, and its unusual ability to form polymers at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth enables this element to serve as a common element of all known life. It is the second most abundant element in the human body by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen.”

  9. if politicians acted like global warming is a problem, they would change zoning to reduce commute distances. (transportation is the number one source of emissions for our area.)

    That is not a small thing. take a look at the morning commute on 84, 880, and 17. that is how many new silicon valley homes we need to allow if we actually care about global warming.

    of course, it is easier to pass resolutions and print ourselves t-shirts that say “I care”. it just doesn’t do anything.

    • Our #1 source of emissions is China and #2 India, we have next to no effect. Screwing America up will not save you.

  10. I was so terrified of global warming I have moved to an elevation 5000 ft and I’m buying a boat just in case a comet hits the earth and melts all the ice and we go beyond the tipping point. I’m also arming up in case we have to start eating people like they are doing in Sweden. Any one have a recipe for Swedish meat balls?

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