by Colin Fiske
Climate-harming pollution is a byproduct of almost every aspect of our modern lives, from heating our homes to disposing of our waste to moving from place to place. The impacts of runaway climate change will be similarly pervasive. So tackling the climate crisis with the full urgency and ambition required will involve a lot of changes to our communities, our economies, and our lives.
We’ve known this for a long time, and local governments in Humboldt County have – to varying degrees – incorporated climate adaptation and mitigation strategies into plans and projects in recent years. But despite the scale of the crisis, there has been no comprehensive effort to plan a transition to a sustainable, resilient, low-carbon future for our region. That may be about to change.
A coalition of Humboldt County and local incorporated cities has been working for over two years to develop a regional Climate Action Plan (CAP), and a public draft is expected soon. The CAP will lay out the ways that local governments can reduce emissions and require them to commit to implementing many of these measures. In order to be of any use as a planning tool, the CAP will have to be “qualified,” meaning that it requires local governments to pull their weight toward meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Also this year, the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) is updating the county’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP helps determine what transportation projects get funded and implemented. Since transportation is the source of the majority of local greenhouse gas emissions, that means the RTP is nearly as critical to our climate future as the CAP. In recognition of that fact, and as a result of efforts by the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities and others, HCAOG has broken with the past to develop a set of specific, quantifiable climate-related targets for inclusion in the RTP.
Together, these two plans which are currently under development represent the best opportunity we’ve had so far to chart a course toward a climate-friendly future for our region. But the outcome is far from certain. Our task now is to ensure that the CAP and the RTP, when adopted, are bold and far-reaching enough to address the scope of the crisis. Then will come the even harder work of holding our local governments accountable to those plans from day to day and year to year.
In today’s Humboldt County, it can be hard to imagine how our communities will become genuinely climate-friendly. But we really can create a future for our region in which most of us walk, bike or take public transit to work, to school, and to the grocery store, in which we heat and power our buildings and vehicles with clean electricity and achieve zero waste. The Climate Action Plan and the Regional Transportation Plan offer us the chance to lay the groundwork for these changes. Let’s not mess this up.
You can keep informed about the RTP and the CAP – including how to have your say about what goes in them – by reading the EcoNews, and by signing up for CRTP’s newsletters and action alerts at transportationpriorities.org/stay-in-touch.