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.