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San Jose Sustainability Plan To Meet Paris Agreement

San Jose’s Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) Bold Goals. Image: City of San Jose

San Jose city planners are finalizing an Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP), a “community-centered climate action plan” that will help transition San Jose into a low-carbon economy and meet the city’s obligations under the 2016 Paris Agreement.

“I think this is exactly the direction that many in this community want to see this go,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, praising the plan. “Very bold goals, very concrete actions.”

“Many cities around the country have already produced what we call 80 by ’50 plans,” explained PwC Managing Director Clinton Moloney at the meeting, “which show how you reduce your carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2050.”

San Jose’s plan adopts the same goal to comply with the Paris Agreement and with California’s climate goals. Moloney noted that and 80 percent reduction would require a 6.5 percent annual reduction of emissions until 2050.

San Jose’s Greenhouse Gas reduction targets are ambitious. Image: City of San Jose

But the plan “does not include any strategies regarding the significant contributions that the preservation of open space can make toward reduction of greenhouse gases,” commented Committee for Green Foothills Legislative Advocacy Director Alice Kaufman. “You have to have green spaces, trees, wetlands, and other vegetation to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.”

“In a crowded urban environment, open space is a valuable component to cleaning the air we all breathe,” said Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful Director Deb Cramer.

“Currently the plan appears to be silent on the importance of protecting and stewarding our natural and agricultural lands,” critiqued Greenbelt Alliance South Bay Regional Representative Kiyome Yamamoto. “This should become a central strategy to the city’s approach to sustainability… allowing natural areas like Coyote Valley to continue its important role in absorbing floodwaters that threaten our communities and are only projected to worsen with Climate Change.”

“This is a really wonderful plan, but there is a pillar missing,” said Audubon Society representative Shani Kleinhaus, “and that’s the natural and working landscapes. The land is a carbon sink and it manages water and takes care of us.”

“Well before I came into office, there were expectations that were created on the development of Coyote Valley… landowners have invested upwards of $115 million on everything from freeway improvements to sidewalks to sewer improvements,” argued Liccardo. “If we want to go down the road of saying those entitlements go away, somebody better be ready to write a check.”

Moloney reported that the City Council is expected to adopt the final ESP in October.