Long Delayed Climate Action Plan Finally Gets City Council Attention
The Irvine City Council voted on February 14, 2023, to approve agenda Item 6.3 to establish a timeline for the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), moving the deadline from December 2023 to June 2024 to allow for the completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which, according to the city manager, typically takes 12-18 months to complete.
This long-delayed CAAP development process began in November 2020 when the City Council approved its scope of work. Then, in June of 2021, the Irvine City Council approved an agreement to pay Ascent Environmental $447,145 to develop Irvine’s CAAP by Dec. 2022. Since then, community members, city commissioners, and climate activists have complained about the lack of meaningful progress.
In December 2022, the city held its first public workshop on the CAAP and gave a presentation, and provided the public an opportunity to help identify priorities. The city presented Irvine’s Community Inventory, based on data from 2019, which identified the causes of local Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions:
In February 2023, the city’s consultant Ascent Environment finally published the “Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report for the City of Irvine Climate Action and Adaptation Plan,” which is the “…first step in the climate action planning process…to develop a GHG emissions inventory, which is a snapshot of the GHG emissions associated with sources and activities within its jurisdiction in a given year.”
Frustration Over CAAP and Climate Action Delays
Questions are left to be answered. A culmination of delays, lack of follow-up, and general lack of urgency have snowballed into more significant concerns over whether Irvine’s carbon neutrality will come to fruition.
Councilmember Kathleen Treseder told Irvine Watchdog, “As a previous outsider, it was very hard for me to find information about why it was going so slowly… So what I’m asking is for a specific timeline that ensures CEQA qualification in time to ensure that this plan isn’t toothless.”
Local community groups have demanded more action on the CAAP. In a letter to the City Council dated August 2022 and signed by 26 local community groups, they wrote, “Irvine’s CAAP is key to incorporating and scaling policies like building electrification into the city’s overall plan to reduce GHGs. However, like building electrification policy, Irvine’s CAAP has also been delayed. Irvine is paying nearly $500,000 for its CAAP and entered into that agreement more than a year ago, yet little progress has been made or shown to the community. This is especially concerning since the CAAP is a means to identify and create strategies to outreach to communities of concern in Irvine, yet no community outreach has occurred.”
The recently published Orange County Climate Action Plan Report Card by the Climate Action Campaign said of Irvine’s efforts:
“In June 2021, Irvine approved a CAAP budget and a $450,000 consultant agreement, which included a timeline of CAAP activities to be completed by December 2022, most of which the city failed to deliver.”
“In mid-2022, instead of delivering on climate promises, Irvine staff gave CAAP presentations featuring gas industry talking points and delay tactics at both a city council meeting and an environmental committee meeting.”
“Irvine’s sustainability staff members had little involvement in the CAAP and related policies in 2022, focusing instead on the Cool Block program, which reduces residents’ individual carbon footprints. Community engagement on the CAAP has been stifled by public comment policies and CAAP events exclusive to business interests and a small handful of environmental organizations.”
“In January 2023, Irvine voted a second time to draft an all-electric new building policy. The previous council unanimously approved the same action in December 2021 but delayed follow-through for more than a year at the request of monied interests such as the gas industry.”
What is the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan?
The CAAP is intended to help the city achieve its ambitious goal of reducing its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to achieve net neutrality by the year 2030.
According to the City of Irvine, the CAAP seeks to:
- Guide the City on implementing measurable actions to meet or exceed the State’s GHG reduction targets, climate neutrality goal, and the City’s ambitious carbon neutral goal by 2030.
- Recommend adaptation measures that build resilience to current and future climate threats.
- Emphasize climate goals for the community, establishing an aspirational yet achievable path that provides options to realize aggressive emissions reduction targets by 2030, 2035, and 2045.
What is the ACHIEVES Resolution?
In August 2021, the City Council adopted the “Addressing Climate Change in Irvine’s Environment, Values, and Energy Sources” resolution, known as the Irvine ACHIEVES resolution, to help guide the development of the City’s climate plans and climate action efforts.
The ACHIEVES resolution states, “The City of Irvine will endeavor to achieve a zero-carbon local economy consistent with 2020 targets based on the most recent climate science.” The resolution goes on to list a number of aspirational goals, such as:
- Economic, environmental, and social justice in its climate actions
- New and existing buildings become energy efficient and zero carbon
- Reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions by expanding protected bikeways, pedestrian corridors, zero-emission vehicles, accessible public transit, and land-use practices.
- Build critical energy infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging networks, distribution grid updates, microgrids, and/or renewable fuel transport and storage systems.
- Integration of climate change preparedness to ensure that the community will be prepared for climate changes and climate-related shocks such as wildfires, droughts, and extreme heat events.
How to Get Involved
Residents can stay informed and get involved by requesting city staff to present about CAAP at local events or email the city with questions or suggestions. The Cool Block Cool Block program also encourages interested residents to become Cool Block Leaders to engage with 5-8 households in your neighborhood to focus on carbon reduction, disaster preparedness, and water conservation. The city is also currently conducting a Climate Action survey. To provide survey input, click HERE.
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