Alameda County – Building Support for an Internal Climate Action Plan
Community Story written and posted by BAAQMD, June 2010.
In developing the Alameda County Climate Action Plan for Government Services and Operations the County’s Sustainability Team set out with the idea that climate protection can increase resource efficiency, manage costs, and improve customer service, as well as reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ten-year plan that was produced lays out a course for how the County can reduce its contribution to climate change while upholding the County’s traditional priorities of high-quality service delivery and cost management.
- The Plan touches on every aspect of County operations from fleets and buildings to capital planning and how services are delivered.
- Agency Climate Coordinators were selected to represent 19 County Agencies.
- Employees provided over 500 suggestions for measures through a webpage set up to support the plan on the County’s intranet site, as well as through booths at County events and in-person meetings.
- Thorough quantitative analyses provide a high level of confidence that the Plans’ targets will be met or exceeded.
- Developing the Plan through an inclusive process was worthwhile in generating support and buy-in but took longer than originally anticipated.
- Maintaining a flexible approach to implementation but also providing clear direction to ensure that the plan moves forward is important.
- Conducting technical analysis is important but presenting too much technical information when promoting the plan can lose your audience.
Resources to learn more
- Alameda County Sustainability website (with links to the climate plans and climate protection resolutions)
The Rest of the Story…
Alameda County government provides infrastructure, emergency services (law enforcement, fire), flood control, libraries, and other services to the unincorporated areas of the County. They also provide an array of services to all residents in the County including foster care, public health, jails, elections, property assessment, tax collection, vital statistics, and legal services. The County government employs approximately 9,000 people and operates over 150 buildings and facilities.
Providing these services requires energy and fuel, generates waste, and leads to the release of the greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change. Alameda County counts environmental stewardship as one of its core values and therefore has set out to reduce its contribution to climate change. Over the past several years the County has assumed a leadership role in climate protection by convening all the cities in the County at the Alameda County & Cities Climate Forum, passing several climate related resolutions, committing to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050, as well as developing climate plans for both internal operations and the unincorporated areas of the County.
Given the current economic backdrop, staff tasked with developing the Climate Action Plan for Government Services and Operations knew that any plan they produced would need to be fiscally conservative and have the buy-in of the county agency heads and employees who would be responsible for implementation. In order to achieve this, a cross-agency process was developed to engage county employees and decision makers in creating the Plan.
With strong support from the County Administrator along with other key agency heads, the first step was to designate Agency Climate Coordinators (ACCs) in every agency and to set up a climate protection intranet site where employees were invited to submit their ideas (over 500 were submitted). Through the course of the Plan’s development the ACC’s were individually interviewed at their offices, and met as a group five times. The process provided invaluable input that was used to customize the measures that were included in the Plan and to develop an implementation approach that would be acceptable to the diverse array of agencies that make up the County Government.
In addition to the GHG emissions reductions that the plan will achieve, measures were given priority based on their ability to achieve other environmental or social benefits, be implemented cost effectively within individual County agencies, and advance existing County policies and goals. The County dedicated considerable staff time to developing the Plan, which was funded in part through a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The Board of Supervisors adopted the Plan and climate action framework unanimously and with high praise on May 4, 2010.
What’s in the Plan and County’s Climate Action Framework -
Through implementing the 10-year Plan the County will meet or exceed the Board adopted target of reducing emissions by at least 15% below the 2003 baseline by 2020. The measures identified in the Plan further establish a foundation for the County to achieve 80% emissions reductions by 2050.
The Board of Supervisors also adopted 16 Commitments to Climate Protection that provide a common vision and high-level policy direction for how the County will meet its 2020 emissions reduction target. These lay out the broad structures, goals, and programmatic areas in which actions will occur.
The Commitments are supported by a set of over 80 GHG reduction measures, outlined in the Plan, that provide the blueprint for achieving the GHG reduction targets. These measures include actions that will be implemented Countywide, launched by individual agencies, and undertaken by employees.
The Commitments and measures address six major action areas:
Climate Protection Leadership: Create foundational, structural, and long-term policies critical for meeting the County’s climate protection targets;
Cross-Cutting Measures: Carry out overarching measures that reduce GHG emissions from multiple sources and facilitate the emissions reductions sought in other action areas;
Built Environment: Reduce GHG emissions from the County’s physical infrastructure of buildings and facilities;
Transportation: Reduce GHG emissions from employees’ work-related travel and commute trips;
Solid Waste: Reduce, reuse, and recycle to minimize the GHG emissions associated with waste generation and disposal; and
Beyond Reductions: Take steps to remove GHGs from the atmosphere after they have been released and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Finally, the plan also places a strong emphasis on monitoring and verification, advertising successes, encouraging replication, and ensuring the County remains on course to achieving its climate protection goals.