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City of Fremont – Involving the Public in Climate Change Action

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Civic Engagement

Engaging youth in community deliberations helps enrich Fremont’s climate action recommendations and educates youth about climate change and sustainability issues.

Community:Fremont (Alameda County)

Population: 215,000

Summary

The Fremont city council appointed a “green” task force to provide recommendations on how the city could be more sustainable and address climate change. Prior to submittal of the Task Force’s recommendations to the City Council, 150 residents, including youth and adults, helped prioritize the recommendations at a Climate Change Workshop, which helped build community awareness and support for these efforts.

Program Highlights

  • The City Council appointed a 7-member green task force to advise city leaders about how to improve the sustainability of city operations, including how to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • About 150 diverse residents, one third of them youth, attended a community event to prioritize the green task force recommendations and signed pledges to reduce their own carbon footprints.
  • The City Council adopted many of the recommendations, including setting a GHG reduction goal, buying alternative fuel vehicles, and setting aside funds to develop a climate action plan.

Lessons Learned

  • Young people are interested in climate change and want to do something about it. Soliciting youth input is a good opportunity to get young people energized and involved in local government.
  • It is important to be realistic when organizing community workshops, which are labor intensive. Involving youth adds an additional dimension to the effort and may require more staff time than is otherwise necessary for traditional public meetings.
  • Be sure to alert participants if they need to bring personal information to community events on sustainability or climate change, such as their utility bills.
  • People serving on a task force usually have limited time to volunteer; it helps if staff can do research and provide them with background information to assist in their deliberations.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

The City of Fremont has been involving residents in updating its General Plan for the last few years. This process included community workshops on different topics, such as climate change. City officials and staff noted a high level of community interest in climate change. In November of 2007, the Mayor and City Council appointed a seven member resident task force to study the issue and make recommendations to the city council about how the city could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and generally be more sustainable in city policies and actions.

Task Force Created

The task force was composed of ethnically diverse community members who were environmental professionals, environmental advocates, and individuals who were interested in the subject and active in the community. City staff conducted research to provide the task forced members with factual information that would allow them to make well-informed recommendations.

In July of 2008, the green task force and city staff presented their recommendations to the city council. They suggested that the council share the recommendations with the greater community for their input before making any decisions. Using the extensive outreach network that the city staff had developed in the process of inviting residents to be a part of the general plan update, community members were invited to an interactive event in September of 2008. The goals of the event were to get broad community input on the task force recommendations, educate residents about climate change, and encourage them to take action.

Involving City Youth

The city recognized that sustainability and climate change is of interest to many young people. Although it can be challenging to attract high levels of youth participation in public engagement activities, a special effort was made to reach out and invite young people to participate. For example, city staff asked students in an active high school environmental club to do a presentation on how to set up a school recycling program. These young people invited their peers, and city staff arranged to provide required community service hours to students who attended.

As a result, unlike many traditional public meetings, about a third of the 150 participants were youth. Participants learned about options for “green” action and broke into groups to discuss specific topics such as reducing vehicle miles traveled or educational outreach efforts. They did a “sticky dot” exercise to prioritize lists of recommendations and signed pledges to reduce their carbon footprint. The city plans to continue to engage residents – including youth – as it develops a climate change action plan.

Read other Fremont climate leadership case stories on Green Building and Land Use and Community Design.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.
 

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