In Need of a Climate Action Plan

Martha Walden for the What Now? Coalition

Fiscal policy makers — from the local level all the way up to the International Monetary Fund — agree that the economy needs not just a major stimulus but a major green stimulus. A viable future will rest on green energy and green infrastructure. Business as usual was shunting us into a crisis worse than the pandemic. We have ten short years to decarbonize.  

Besides emitting far too many greenhouse gases, the old status quo has also been deeply unfair. The wealth barely trickles down to the bottom of the heap. Many low income people live in polluted, degraded environments in order for everybody to have abundant, dirty energy. People all over the world recognize these harsh realities, and they are demanding a just recovery from the global recession caused by Covid. Health for everybody is the top priority. Economic relief should go directly to people instead of corporations. Investment should be in a regenerative, resilient economy instead of boom and bust. 

On July 21st, The Board of Supervisors gave a nod to this global movement when they sent a wish list to Senators Feinstein and Harris and Congressman Jared Huffman. It began with calling a green stimulus an “opportunity to encourage a just recovery that promotes a healthier, more equitable economy of the future.” 

So what would Humboldt County do with a nice fat check from the federal government? The projects outlined in the letter fall into four categories.

Offshore wind energy. The feasibility of offshore wind depends on expensive port infrastructure improvements and an upgraded electrical grid. Special funds could help mitigate unavoidable impacts. 

Decarbonization of transportation. Convert HTA buses and school buses to electricity and build more charging stations for private vehicles. Build a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails.

Restoration of natural ecosystems. Thanks to local watershed groups and public-private partnerships between forest service and nonprofits in the area, we have a rural restoration economy to build on. Doing so would enhance carbon sequestration and create jobs.

Decarbonization of buildings. Improving public buildings — municipal, university, schools, and hospitals — would reduce energy needs and greenhouse gases. Block grants could fund energy efficiency for private housing, particularly low income housing. 

The trajectory between great ideas and reality is usually long and complicated. The rubber doesn’t hit the road until the money arrives and the county disburses the funds. How exactly the county will decide the details and priorities would be dictated by Humboldt’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). 

Some of you who attended CAP workshops last year may wonder when it will be finished. The original deadline was the end of this year, and the public is supposed to get a chance to weigh in before the Board of Supervisors approves it. According to an unofficial report, it’s far behind schedule.

We’re in a bad spot here with one disaster piled on top of another. But the Climate Action Plan is more crucial than ever because we need to get ready for an influx of vital resources. Where are you, CAP?