City of Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan

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The City of Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) in Oakland, California was developed as an environmental policy to address the issues of climate change and energy consumption. The purpose of the ECAP is to identify and prioritize actions the city can take to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with Oakland. This plan recommends GHG reduction actions, and establishes a framework for coordinating implementation, as well as monitoring and reporting on progress. The ECAP will assist the City of Oakland in continuing its legacy of leadership on energy, climate and sustainability issues.[1]

Development of the ECAP[edit]

The goal of the ECAP was to reduce 2005 GHG emissions by 36% in 15 years. The law would be reviewed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), although drafts could be approved without a CEQA determination. The Community & Economic Development Agency (CEDA) conducted a preliminary environmental quality review upon direction from City Council. The task of drafting ECAP was delegated to City Council staff in July 2009; the draft was reviewed in December 2010 by the Planning Commission followed by the Public Works committee. Out of all the action items, the draft recommended a subset of actions to be completed within 3 years. ECAP action recommendations were evaluated by the Oakland City Planning Commission on their GHG Reduction Potential, Implementation Cost & Access to Funding, Financial Rate of Return, GHG Reduction Cost Effectiveness, Economic Development Potential, Creation of Significant Social Equity Benefits, Feasibility & Speed of Implementation, Leveraging Partnerships (with community stakeholders and on a regional, state or national level), and Longevity of Benefits.[2]

Hurdles in the city’s development efforts[edit]

A 2011 draft of the plan acknowledged major concern about further development exacerbating GHG production through building energy use, construction and transportation costs. The draft stated that methods for accounting for these costs haven’t been comprehensively developed. Issues around data collection and correlation of GHG production to communities have presented problems—since communities vary in the way they measure and the amount they produce of GHGs, it has been difficult for City staff to create a standardized method of quantification and accounting for environmental costs.[3]

Some sources of pollution such as transit traffic at the Oakland International Airport and highways are not under the jurisdiction of the City and would call for mobilization of communities to decrease. By the City’s calculations, Upstream emissions from material consumption, air travel, and transportation on roads and highways were the major sources of pollution. BART produces zero carbon thanks to a direct access contract.[3]

Community's engagement in the planning process[edit]

In early 2009, Oakland announced its decision to start drafting an ECAP. The Ella Baker Center’s Green-Collar Jobs Campaign realized that this could be an opportunity to “engage Oakland residents most impacted by poverty and pollution in drafting and passing job-creating solutions”. On April 9, 2009, more than 50 people from 30 community organizations gathered in the Ella Baker Center to discuss an Energy and Climate Action Plan that could serve people with all backgrounds; the meeting led to the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC).[4]

The OCAC had four tiers of involvement: Convener, Steering Committee Members, Coalition Members, and Coalition Allies. As OCAC Convener, the Ella Baker Center was responsible for coordinating the coalition. It led in drafting the coalition’s mission and goals, and facilitated Steering Committee and Coalition meetings to keep the coalition on track. The Steering Committee consisted of co-chairs of the OCAC’s seven Committees: transportation and land use; building and energy use; consumption and solid waste; food, water and urban agriculture/forestry; climate change adaptation planning; community engagement; port of Oakland. Each committee was in the charge of two co-chairs, one policy and one grassroots, and brought together for specific policy advocacy each month. Coalition members attended monthly General Coalition meetings. Coalition Allies responded to specific OCAC actions.[4]

The OCAC achieved its goals through “a dual strategy of policy advocacy and community engagement”.[4] On the policy advocacy side, the OCAC worked together with city staff and came up with research, language, and policy recommendations that got incorporated in the final ECAP.[4] The OCAC has contributed to drafting of the ECAP by creating its own version based on community workshops in Oakland’s low-income, flat-land neighborhoods; it has also participated in revising the draft.[4] The OCAC has played a big part in “changing the overall framing of the ECAP” by rewriting the introduction to the Plan, to include aspects of creating jobs, saving money and improving air quality.[4] Over 50 of the 150 policies included in Oakland’s ECAP were created and supported by the Coalition.[4] According to the ECAP draft appendix, “Community input was critical to the development of the ECAP. This input was received directly from hundreds of community members and dozens of local organizations engaged with thousands of additional community members. The Oakland community helped to shape the process, GHG reduction targets, tone and structure of the ECAP, and many of the proposed GHG reduction actions.”[3]

The OCAC also hosted dozens of community events that brought in more than 1,000 low-income residents and residents of color in Oakland’s to the planning process. Between September and October 2009, the OCAC hosted 14 workshops to exchange information and ideas with the community. Some of the events organized by OCAC included Community Convergence for Climate Action, Rally at City Hall, Green Mayoral forum and a solar-powered concert.[4]

After Oakland’s ECAP was adopted in 2011, the Ella Baker Center looked to new leadership of the Coalition, and worked on other projects that “bring people-power to Oakland’s green economy.”[4]

Content of the ECAP[edit]

Noticing that the city was taking up a substantial amount of water and energy, Mayor Jean Quan and other council members decided to create a plan to improve the situation. The ECAP has a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal of 36% below 2005 levels by 2020. The main purpose of ECAP is to specifically locate sources of emission in transportation land use, building energy use and material consumption/waste to recommend specific actions for mitigation.[1]

Missions and goals[edit]

Projected local impacts of climate change include rising Bay and delta waters, increased vulnerability to flood events, decreased potable water supply due to shrinking Sierra snowpack, increased fire danger, more extreme heat events and public health impacts, added stress on infrastructure, higher prices for food and fuels, and other ecological and quality of life impacts.[1]

Building on Oakland's legacy of climate progress, the next phase of action on energy and climate issues must consist of efforts in two major areas: Mitigation and Adaptation. These include strategies to reduce transportation fuel use, natural gas, electricity use, consumption and manufacture of material goods and waste management. Transportation & Land Use, Building Energy Use, and Material Consumption & Waste are the three largest sources of GHG emissions in Oakland. In July 2009, the Oakland City Council approved a preliminary GHG reduction target for the year 2020 of 36% below 2005 levels. This calls for a 36% reduction in emissions with respect to each of these GHG sources. The ECAP also recommends a Three Year Priority Implementation Plan, a prioritized subset of actions recommended for implementation in the next three years. The ECAP outlines the role that recent state-level policies are expected to play in reducing GHG emissions, and provides a vision for the role of community leadership. Implementing the actions identified in the ECAP has the potential to create a variety of community benefits, including energy cost savings, local green jobs and economic development, reduced local air pollution, improved public health, and other quality of life improvements throughout Oakland. The ECAP will be updated every three years to review progress, identify new priority actions and maintain momentum.[1]

Implementation and resources[edit]

ECAP implementation will involve an inter-agency staff team to provide staff-level coordination. Priority Actions that have available funding sources are listed in the document. Putting Oakland on a steady path of progress toward achieving a 36% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020 will also require the implementation of additional actions during the next three years. The ECAP includes budget estimates for funding the City would need to implement the 32 Priority Actions Requiring New Resources. In addition to resources required by the City to support implementation, achieving the 36% GHG reduction target will require complementary action throughout the community in many areas. Much of this work has the potential to create significant cost savings for property owners and/or tenants; in addition, some households could experience a net positive cash flow.[1]

A collaborative approach[edit]

Achieving Oakland’s 2020 GHG Reduction Goal will require unprecedented action to address all three of the major sources of GHG emissions: Transportation & Land Use, Building Energy Use, Material Consumption & Waste. For the purpose of developing the draft ECAP, Oakland's 36% GHG reduction goal is applied to each of these three categories of GHG emission sources:[1]

20% reduction in vehicle miles traveled

24 million gallons of gasoline and diesel saved

32% reduction in annual electricity consumption

14% reduction in annual natural gas consumption

62 million kWh and 2.7 million therms of renewable energy production

375,000 tons of waste diverted

Role of federal, state and regional partners[edit]

The ECAP is intended to complement actions taken by federal, state and regional governments to address the threat of climate change. Among the strategies contained in the CARB Scoping Plan are: vehicle fuel efficiency and low carbon fuel standards; energy efficiency standards for buildings; aggressive renewable portfolio standards for electricity generation; hybrid vehicle support; high speed rail; industrial sector energy efficiency measures; growing sustainable forests; and recycling and waste measures. For the purpose of quantifying GHG emissions and needed reductions, projections of Oakland's 2020 GHG emissions have been adjusted based on projected changes in population, economic activity and vehicle miles traveled. These projections also assume implementation of State driven strategies that will not require additional local government action. Regional partners such as the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are working to reduce emissions through development of regional housing allocations for Bay Area cities, transportation plans, and priority development areas.[1]

Role of city Government and local action[edit]

The primary purpose of the ECAP is to identify and prioritize actions the City can take to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions associated with Oakland. For example, the City's proposed Green Building Ordinance for Private Development would help to ensure that new residential, commercial and retrofitted buildings are designed to achieve high levels of energy efficiency and green performance. The City can encourage voluntary action, promote model local practices, provide opportunities for new ideas from the community to further strengthen local efforts, and track and report on Oakland's progress in reducing energy use and GHG emissions. Local service providers (e.g., PG&E, AC Transit) will play key roles in enabling individuals to make choices that reduce GHG emissions.[1]

Recommended actions[edit]

The ECAP lists priority actions required for the next three years (2010-2013) and actions for a ten-year plan until 2020. Priority actions are categorized into ones supported by existing funds and ones requiring new funding sources. Priority actions that will require new funding sources include estimates of funds needed, along with recommended implementation responsibility if resources should become available. The ECAP categorizes actions into: transportation and land use; building energy use; material consumption and waste; community engagement; climate adaptation and resilience. It lists priority actions supported by existing funds, and priority actions requiring new funding sources and all other actions required to achieve the 2020 plan.[1]

Transportation and land use[edit]

Efforts to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector pose the opportunity to create a more equitable, sustainable, affordable and healthy Oakland by addressing the interconnection between land use and transportation-related emissions; engaging employers to reduce commute and business trips; promoting urban forestry; and improving the City vehicle fleet.[1]

Building energy use[edit]

Natural gas consumption is the largest source of GHG emissions related to buildings, followed by emissions from power plants that supply Oakland's electricity. These include: optimizing energy efficiency in new construction; retrofitting existing buildings to reduce energy consumption; promoting energy and water conservation and efficiency; advancing the use of renewable energy; and improving the energy performance of municipal facilities.[1]

Material consumption and waste[edit]

While many of these emissions do not occur within Oakland's geographic boundaries, consumption and disposal decisions made by each member of the Oakland community play a major role in the creation of these GHG emissions. By pursuing the City's adopted Zero Waste strategies, Oakland can help to create GHG reductions of the same magnitude as those related to transportation and building energy use. Replacing energy-intensive virgin resources with energy-efficient recycled resources can create significant GHG benefits and help to address global resource depletion. The Zero Waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle and compost can be viewed as a global energy efficiency program that significantly reduces energy and other natural resources required to create consumer goods, from cars to packaging to food.[1]

Community engagement[edit]

Through its leadership and existing communication channels, the City can help to spur the high levels of community participation needed to solve the challenge of climate change, and seed opportunities for new ideas from the community to further strengthen local efforts. However, 30% of Oakland's housing stock will need to undergo energy improvements, and 30% of Oakland's businesses will need to participate aggressively in energy efficiency and recycling programs. Local organizations, including community-based organizations, business, labor, educational institutions and others, can help to educate, motivate and empower the entire Oakland community to participate in and benefit from local climate action.[1]

Climate adaptation and increasing resilience[edit]

Some impacts of climate change (e.g., sea level rise) are already starting to be observed the result of decades of fossil fuel combustion and other activities, such as deforestation, that have already happened.[1]


Lack of effort in addressing existing climate impacts[edit]

KQED has pointed out that the plan falls short in addressing how the city will tackle climate change that has already begun; the plan instead focuses on future emission reduction and sustainability in further development. The Oakland's Pacific Institute worked with the OCAC and came up with their adaptation recommendations to fill in the gaps of the ECAP:[5]

Extreme heat

Develop early-warning systems for extreme heat events

Open air-conditioned buildings to the community during extreme heat events

Install cool pavement

Install green roofs


Limit development in floodplain

Preserve or restore wetlands

Raise existing structures above flood level

Build levees and seawalls


Replace flammable vegetation with less-flammable options

Limit development in fire-prone areas

Ensure adequate shelters are in place

Rising utility and food costs

Promote energy and water efficiency

Develop and support local food systems

Programs to reduce financial hardship on residents

Create green economy and workforce

Poor air quality

Insulate/seal homes

Create “safe rooms” with HEPA filters

Develop warning system for air-quality

Political and economical barricades[edit]

Despite ECAP’s effort to address the needs of low-income communities and communities of color through sustainability programs, there are political and economical barriers for implementation according to a report from Oakland Local, an independent, nonprofit media in Oakland. Advocates helped to set progressive polices on affordable solar and energy efficiency programs for low-income communities of color but difficulties have lied in the way of widespread adoption.[6]

In the report, one problem is that city lacks funding, according to Mari Rose Taruc, State Organizing director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN). Even though the city has been making progress in some areas, including zero-interest loans for weatherization and energy efficiency aimed at multi-family projects, some big ECAP items, such as the urban forestry plan-“which could significantly impact air quality in flatland areas”-are waiting for funding. Some of the funds, which were supposed to come from cap-and trade revenues for low-income communities with serious pollution, got delayed at least until 2015, “due to Governor Brown’s decision to divert the entire $500 million earmarked for set-asides from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the General Fund, including $125 million in set-asides for disadvantaged communities.”[6]

The report also mentions that ECAP’s recommendation on community-based solar program suffered when the proposed “Solar for All” bill, AB 1990, was lobbied against by investor-owned utilities and defeated in 2012. “AB1990 would have created approximately 1,000 small-scale solar projects in low-income communities, an alternative to the large renewable energy farms located in remote areas favored by IOUs,” according to the report.[6]

Al Weinrub, a member of the Local Clean Energy Allicance (LECA) and OCAC, says that low-income communities of color are not only “the most poisoned by industrial pollution and the most exploited by the local economy,” but also “left out of the renewable energy game.” He adds that it will take a long time for smaller community providers to come into play “bypassing the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission)."[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Oakland ECAP" (PDF). City of Oakland. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Staff Report December 1, 2010" (PDF). City of Oakland. 
  3. ^ a b c "ECAP Appendix" (PDF). City of Oakland. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "OCAC toolkit" (PDF). Ella Baker Center. 
  5. ^ Seltenrich, Nate (September 17, 2012). "Filling the Gaps in Oakland's Climate Plan". KQED. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Sidebar: Climate Solutions Face Political, Economic Hurdles". Oakland Local. Retrieved May 7, 2014.