Following a unanimous vote of the city council, Irvine has decided to develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP). On July 9, the City Council voted 4-0 for Councilmember Farrah Khan’s proposal to do a full CAP. Though Councilmember Melissa Fox was absent from the vote, she blogged ahead of the meeting that she supported the CAP proposal.
Producing the plan will cost the city between $250,000 and $500,000, and will take 18 to 24 months, city staff told the Council (activists dispute this number, saying similar plans done in other cities cost around $70,000). Nonetheless, it was welcome news to the activists with Climate Action Campaign, who have long lobbied Irvine to produce the plan.
“We’re thrilled that Irvine wants to be a leader in taking action to stop climate change and reduce emissions,” Orange County Climate Action Campaign activist Robin Ganahl said after the City Council meeting. “And we hope this will be a model for other cities in Orange County to follow. This is a big turning point for climate action in Orange County.”
A CAP is simply a document that specifies how a city or county will reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are driving climate change. “CAPs generally focus on those activities that can achieve the relatively greatest emission reductions in the most cost effective manner, and cover all sectors in the community such as energy use in buildings, transportation, and waste generation,” states a July 9 City of Irvine staff report on the matter.
At the City Council meeting, 21 residents spoke in favor of the plan (no one spoke in opposition). “We need local action on climate change now to protect the Irvine community, my generation, and future generations,” UC Irvine student Ari Jong said.
Ganahl also spoke at the meeting. “Irvine is one of the greenest cities in the U.S., and you all have a chance to be leaders by adopting a climate action plan that can be a model for neighboring cities,” she said on July 9. “[A CAP would] reassure parents like me that Irvine is doing its part to leave a better future for our children.”
City staff said preparing a CAP is entirely optional for a city. Ganahl disputes this, saying that statement is “misleading” because the CAP “is how the City mitigates the emissions that results from their General Plan update.”
Ganahl also noted this in her public comments, when she said the CAP is how cities deal with the greenhouse gas requirements imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which are mandatory. City staff did make this point as well in their report on the issue.
“Additionally, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEOA) requires the mitigation of significant project impacts resulting from GHG emissions,” stated the staff report. “ln some instances, local governments have formalized climate action and adaptation planning and the implementation of such reduction measures in the form of a voluntary plan that adopts midterm and long-term reduction targets with timeframes for implementation consistent with or more stringent than the state GHG reduction goals.”
Climate Action Campaign has worked on getting Irvine to adopt a CAP for the last three years, Ganahl said. Around 2016, Nicole Capretz, the campaign’s founder and executive director, wrote a letter to the city asking for a CAP. Another activist, Roger Gloss, also asked the city to produce a CAP, since the General Plan update was just about to start.
Just a small handful of other cities in Orange County have Climate Action Plans, including La Habra, San Clemente, and Fullerton, according to the grassroots organization Orange County for Climate Action.
Though the Irvine City Council didn’t agree to a formal timeline on July 9, the city staff report notes that it can up to two years to develop a CAP. As far as what happens with the rest of the county, Ganahl was hopeful that Irvine’s vote will inspire others.
“We did a lot of work in San Diego,” she said. “Once the City of San Diego showed that it was possible, other cities followed their lead.”
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.