PACIFIC GROVE – Sustainability and conservation dominated discussions at Pacific Grove City Council’s regular meeting this week, as strategies to combat climate change and resuming the ban on single-use plastics filled the ‘agenda.
After more than two years of planning and subcommittee work, a proposed climate action and adaptation plan for the Town of Pacific Grove received unanimous support from the City Council to move forward with the next steps. Although still in the early stages, council has asked the city’s Beautification and Natural Resources Commission to flesh out ideas for a task force that will ultimately drive the work to the future. Management came with a mandate to return to city council with progress in January when the new council is seated.
Climate action and adaptation plans typically involve creating an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions within a community, an emissions target, and a series of actions and goals. that the community proposes to take to reduce emissions. Additional plans and measures have been adopted by local governments across Californiawhere there are statewide mandates to reduce global warming emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. In the region of Monterey Bay, the cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and carmel have adopted climate action plans in recent years.
The push to implement similar goals at Pacific Grove began in April 2020, when the nonprofit Sustainable Pacific Grove met with Mayor Bill Peake and urged him to take more action to protect the environment. . Sustainable Pacific Grove is one of several action groups established in cities across the county as part of a larger organization called Communities for Sustainable Monterey County.
The nonprofit then presented to Pacific Grove City Council in January, where it called on the city to proclaim a climate emergency resolution and commit to a series of actions. In turn, the city council recommended that such a document be submitted to the Beautification and Natural Resources Commission for review. Along with a dedicated sub-committee, the commission has been studying, planning and shaping a review of the concept of accommodation and action plan for council consideration since February.
The Beautification and Natural Resources Commission attended Wednesday’s meeting with three recommendations to council: commit to initially planning a climate action and adaptation plan (which would include budgeting , an expected timeline, implementation and financing options); integrate the idea into the next updates of the general plan of the city; and developing a website that summarizes the steps the city is taking toward business.
Acknowledging the scale of the work required to realize the aspirations presented, council leadership on Wednesday kicked off the ball for a possible climate action task force. Members of the task force will range from members of the Natural Resources and Improvement Commission to city staff and the public.
Although still far from complete – and the eyes of the board are different after the mid-terms – the members have welcomed the concept with anticipation.
“Climate change is something we simply cannot ignore,” said Councilman Luke Coletti.
“It’s really clear that we’re behind schedule, and there’s a lot of meaningful work that needs to be done,” Councilor Jenny McAdams added during the council discussion.
In addition to ambitions to reduce emissions, the city council considered a set of environmentally friendly measures: banning single-use plastics and food packaging. In 2019, the board approved a arrangement which restricted single-use plastic in all sectors of the community, from consumers and vendors to restaurants and retailers.
Prior to passing the ordinance, the city educated businesses and community members about the changes through extensive outreach. The effort was done in conjunction with the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce and several local non-governmental organizations, such as Communities for Sustainable Monterey County and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Although the order is now in effect, its application has been limited due to COVID. But the Beautification and Natural Resources Commission is ready to resume implementation. Notifying council of its intention on Wednesday evening, commission member Susan Myers said reopening and enforcement will require greater public outreach to the business community to remind stakeholders of the changes.
The commission’s presentation this week also suggested adding new stipulations to the approved order, including raising the price of take-out paper bags from $0.10 to $0.25, as well as banning balloons and confetti on city property. Council members, however, weren’t ready to make any changes on Wednesday, instead encouraging the commission to start a moderate process to implement the city’s ban on single-use plastics.