Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm a carbon neutral delayist - until 2020

At Monday's Water District meeting, we revised our greenhouse gas/climate change policies.  The prior policy was to reduce emissions "when feasible".  Staff's new proposal was to "strive for carbon neutrality".  The Board Chair (and the other enviro on our board) wanted more.  She said she wanted to achieve carbon neutrality and to give a date, even though it was one she didn't expect to meet.  The date she gave was 2015.

I didn't know she was going to do any of that, so it was a pleasant surprise.  I thought having a date, or figuring out a date soon, was good but we need it to be defensible.  We're already pretty good on emissions, getting most of our power from carbon neutral hydro, but we still use a lot of other power, have a lot of vehicles, and a lot of construction.  I argued for either 2020 or for setting up the process now for establishing a date.  By 2020 I said we should be well along in San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration, which should absorb a huge amount of carbon emissions and make carbon neutrality possible.  The Board settled on that date.

Video below, or go here, click on August 20, and start watching at about 3 hours in.

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The reference to "purpa" is actually the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority, a joint government agency that buys power directly from providers instead of going through utility companies, giving us a lot more control over our carbon emissions.  This is why we have a chance of achieving neutrality.

The truth is I'd be thrilled if we achieved carbon neutrality by 2020, but let's see how close we can get.  I need to start working on the planning for it.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. Stretch goals are all well and good, but there's the tendency when the goals are unreachable to completely ditch them (see Canada + Kyoto, California + electric cars, etc...) so keeping them achievable is key.

Moreover, I tend to favor a 2 or 3 prong approach: prong 1 is to identify actual actions, and promise to do them - eg, cap all landfills and use the methane in the landfills to generate power. Prong 2 is a price signal of some kind like a tax. The more optional Prong 3, for me, is a target, which ends up being something that will encourage revisiting Prongs 1 and 2 if they are insufficient. But I guess a lot of people are target driven... (I also like my targets to not require perfection: eg, I'll usually prefer, say, a ULEV rule over a ZEV rule)


EliRabett said...

You have to call this the 2020 vision initiative

Sou said...

Excellent work.

I'd suggest when you're mapping the plan to include targets for milestones. That way you can revise the end date more easily and you might get there sooner than you think.

For example - by 2015 be 70% carbon neutral or, even better, specify which activities will be carbon neutral. Gives a focus for the plan and you can monitor progress along the way better.

Steve Bloom said...

Er, so what happens to the wetlands credit when SLR swamps them, the levees built for the primary benefit of Google etc. (and paid for by taxpayers) eliminate any prospect of upland retreat, and that CO2 comes right back out?

Russell said...

By 2020 Admiral Rabbit will be at sea munching cattails to furnish the boilers of the US Navy with biofuel pellets, pending the advent of the Great White Peat Fleet propelled by renewable fuel from by then Senator Schmits home district wetlands.

Fixed Carbon said...

Brian: This is my second try at posting a question in response to your statement, "San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration, which should absorb a huge amount of carbon emissions and make carbon neutrality possible" Can you point me to the science underlying this belief? Perhaps the statement was in jest.

John said...

Off topic, but here goes anyway.

Do you realize that 5-year-olds have rights? And that you're never too young to exercise your Second Amendment rights?

Brian said...

Fixed Carbon: no, not joking. Lots of research going on in the area, as I understand it. My perception is that it should do a lot of sequestration, and tidal doesn't have as much of an issue as freshwater wetlands do with methane emissions.

Steve - the wetlands may or may not keep up with SLR naturally. Some of the ponds we already opened up are accumulating sediment naturally at a rapid rate. We can also supplement with disposal of clean fill or accumulated sediment from managed streams, which is also being done currently in places in the South Bay. Even if that doesn't work and they become open water, I hadn't heard that would release the carbon. Have you?

Fixed Carbon said...

Brian: Can you point me to the best,or most pertinent to SFB, or other subset of this literature pertinent to offsetting carbon emissions? Soome refs please.
Regards Don

Brian said...

Don - I'll ask staff, but they're should be plenty of stuff available. Don't know about specific to SF Bay though. The Climate Registry is supposed to have a white paper on it - I surfed around their website but didn't find it.

Fixed Carbon said...

Brian: Any updates on science that shows SFB or even other wetlands absorbing a huge amount of carbon emissions and making carbon neutrality possible?
Regards, Don