With great fanfare, the Sacramento City Council adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change.
The plan is well liked outside Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson received national credit, and was appointed by President Barack Obama to a White House task force.
But to maintain leadership, the council needs to consider climate issues as it makes real world decisions in Sacramento – such as a mega- gas station proposed near Curtis Park.
The stakes of climate change are huge. Scientists and policymakers are talking about capping the overall increase in global temperatures at about 31/2 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re already about a third of the way there, and if we exceed the threshold, the issues move beyond adaptation to societal survival.
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The good news is that the solutions are known, achievable and practical.
They include changing the fuels that power our electrical grid, vehicles and factories. Sacramento’s climate plan identifies gasoline and diesel consumption by vehicles as the largest source of greenhouse gases, making up 48 percent of citywide emissions.
Reducing fossil fuel use is the foundation of greenhouse gas reduction efforts. For transportation, this will mean many more electric vehicles and renewable fuels. Under any scenario, you can expect a rapid decline in gasoline sales starting this decade. The number of gas stations, down 30 percent since 2000, will continue to decline.
Given this context – climate change leadership, rapidly declining fossil fuel sales, closing gas stations – it is puzzling why Sacramento’s leaders would support new mega-gas stations in residential neighborhoods. Yet that is exactly what the Sacramento Planning and Design Commission approved recently and what the council will be reviewing soon.
The planning commission approved the proposed 16-pump Safeway regional gas station on Crocker Road in Curtis Park Village. It will pump more than 7 million gallons of gas a year, making it one of the largest gas stations in our region. Increased greenhouse gas from vehicle trips and car idling will add to problems associated with placing the facility close to residences.
The council can show that its stand for greenhouse gas reduction is more than rhetoric. It may be inconvenient to say no to Safeway or the project developer. It may be inconvenient to raise climate issues in the context of actual city decisions. But if we’re going to resolve climate issues, city leaders need to look at every action they take to ensure they are helping solve – not worsen – the climate problem.
Michael Paparian, who lives in Curtis Park, has worked on environmental finance and policy issues since the 1970s.