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December 24, 2008 > Letter to the Editor: Green House Gases - Does Fremont Really Care?

Letter to the Editor: Green House Gases - Does Fremont Really Care?

Fremont was chosen in 2008 by Popular Science as one of the 50 greenest cities in the United States. Our city has a strong track record for hillside protection, recycling, and promoting energy conservation.

Based on the City Staff's recent analysis of the Green Task Force [GTF] twenty recommendations, however, we face an uphill challenge in coming years. A very brief summary of the GTF recommendations and the City's subsequent analysis [available at City of Fremont website - Nov. 18, City Council Report - ] are as follows:

1] most significantly - City Staff chose to increase its commitment to reduce Green House Gases. Staff chose 25% over the GTF target of 15% because "several cities within Alameda County are setting a goal of 25%." This implies the City is committed to implementing a strategy which can achieve the 25% reduction from 2005 levels.

2] Staff supported some but not all of the recommendations for implementation of the climate control process. It didn't support some low cost recommendations that would allow for substantial GHG reduction measures [e.g. "appointing a Transit Development Manager and providing a cost/benefit analysis of the multiple alternate transportation modalities", "make City-owned land that is not currently under development or scheduled for development within the next seven years available for use as community gardens." Staff did not adopt a public outreach program to encourage alternative commuting one day/week.]

Why should we care? As the presidential election indicated, most Americans are concerned about the impact of global warming. However, making substantial changes in how we travel, how we build our houses, or how we get our energy can interfere with priority #1 - the economy.

It may seem unrealistic for the City to take on a national and international issue. But there are advantages for continuing to be a leader. As the fourth largest city in the Bay Area we're going to be compared to other communities for our success in achieving GHG reduction. Cities of Alameda County have had their CO2 production calculated through an international software methodology produced by ICLEI, an organization which Fremont has joined. We produced around two million tons of CO2 in 2005. Imagine the difficulty, assuming population increase, of cutting back 500,000 tons/year. It won't happen by just planting a tree in the back yard, although that's a reasonable start. But if our city does succeed in its goal, we'll have a closer and stronger community, and we'll provide an example for cities around us.

If Fremont hopes to achieve a 25% GHG reduction by 2020, it will need a strategy which it doesn't yet have. The most promising opportunity is the environmental section of the General Plan, slated for completion in 2009. A comprehensive transit plan and more building code requirements are essential. Still, the greatest challenge is whether Fremont citizens care enough to change how they purchase and use energy. Since the Muncipal government produces only 1% of the city's GHG, our political leaders can only point in the right direction. When 2020 arrives, don't plan on driving to award ceremonies. If we're successful, we could always celebrate at home.

Rich Godfrey, Chair -Green Task Force

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