At the Sept. 3, 2019 Council meeting the City Council agreed to discuss a request from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson considering the adoption of a Climate Emergency Resolution. The request was discussed again on Feb. 4 at a Special City Council meeting, where a subcommittee was formed consisting of Councilmembers Tom Campbell and Steve Young.[BENINDY EDITOR’S NOTE: See the proposed resolution here, noting that this does not contain Council’s amendments. I have requested the amended resolution and will post it when it is released by the City Clerk. See also the accompanying Staff Report here.]
“The world’s changed since I first brought this forward,” said Patterson. “Who would have guessed…it is actually very interesting for us to contemplate this kind of situation with a pandemic which has been described as one of the consequences of climate warming.”
Cities are adopting these resolutions to end city-wide greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution highlights the need to combat climate change, including that Benicia is specifically vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge and coastal erosion, which are all enhanced by extreme weather events that cause increased flooding.
The resolution declares that an existential climate emergency threatens Benicia, the region, state, nation, civilization, humanity and the natural world. The resolution calls for a city-wide mobilization effort to reverse global warming and appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from Solano County, state and federal authorities to end city-wide greenhouse gas emissions while safely drawing down carbon from the atmosphere quickly.
“I think we saw this as more of a global aspirational document,” said Young. “The only thing we wanted to change in it was to localize it to some degree.”
The subcommittee added a clause at the end for the city to promote a more sustainable future, like eventually moving to an all-electric fleet.
Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge and Councilmember Lionel Largaespada both asked for small amendments to the resolution, including not making undue burdens on businesses to attain reduction of greenhouse gas, while implementing policies that are economically feasible.
The resolution is designed to protect the community’s health and safety while also protecting and enhancing the environment.
A resident’s public comment stated that the council should not be focusing on climate change during a pandemic, but Patterson shot back that the pandemic is exactly why immediate action needs to be taken toward combating the climate emergency.
“We now from the early science of COVID-19 that one of the principle challenges for recovery and surviving an infection, particularly in older people, is the air quality,” she said. “We know there’s a direct link to our goal to reduce carbon which contributes to air quality.”
The council unanimously voted for the resolution.