Lopez: We need a Local Green New Deal
Photo courtesy of the Youth Climate Strike.

This week, as thousands of people marched in youth-led climate strikes, a movement is well underway.

With our state hit by natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, it’s increasingly untenable to deny its impact on our daily lives. Yet current projections have us getting nowhere near the action needed to keep warming below two degrees Celsius, the point of catastrophic climate impact. It’s time to call on our local governments to enact a Local Green New Deal.

There’s five steps we can take in the South Bay. First, our local government bodies must declare a climate emergency. Lawmakers in San Jose and Santa Clara County have already done so. As a councilmember, I would lead the way in Campbell. Our other local boards, such as school boards tasked with safeguarding our children’s future, and water and transportation boards that can implement green policies, ought to do the same. Practically, climate emergency resolutions will make it more difficult for the same elected officials to disregard the impact of future policy proposals to the environment.

Our local cities should also commit to planting trees and preserving our existing natural beauty. Campbell is known as the Orchard City — talk to any resident, and we’ll tell you how much we love our trees. They beautify the environment, provide shade for young and old alike, and have been shown to improve mental and physical health. Just as critically, trees trap carbon from the environment in a process known as biosequestration, actually reducing the warming effects of greenhouse gases.

We also need a commitment from local leaders to create walkable, bikeable and livable communities. These improve our health and overall happiness and quality of life. Often, these will require cities to work together, such as the creation of the Los Gatos Creek trail, which was a collaboration between Campbell, Los Gatos, San Jose and Santa Clara County, as well as the Stevens Creek Trail, which required a commitment from Cupertino, Los Altos, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. And an essential part of creating livable communities is planning for mixed-use developments with increased density, with coordination between city councils and our regional transportation bodies.

I grew up taking the bus — that was my connection to the community. That’s why I was proud to be the first local leader in the South Bay to call for free public transit. With Kansas City recently moving to free transit, and leaders in cities like Boston calling for the same, elected leaders in San Francisco and Santa Clara County are now jumping onboard the movement to invest in our transit systems to create stronger communities. It’s not just a win for working families, but also an important piece of an overall local climate strategy.

Finally, we need a commitment to making the transition to clean energy for our local grid.

Many cities, most recently Campbell and Milpitas, have adopted reach codes that ban the use of natural gas for new construction. This is an important part of transitioning the electric grid to clean energy. Bay Area cities must form regional agreements, both between government bodies and with the private sector, with a plan to move toward clean energy. San Jose’s plan currently calls for 100% renewable energy by 2050; other cities must build and improve on this. Unlike San Francisco to the North, which is heavily relying on hydroelectric power from the Hetch Hetchy system to get to 100% renewable energy by 2030, South Bay leaders will need to work together to come up with innovative solutions or risk seriously lagging other metro areas.

As a Campbell city councilmember, I’ll be committed to the fight against climate change. It’s one that affects all of us, and we can’t wait any longer. The good news is, we can take action at the local level. It just takes leaders willing to step up and meet this historical moment.

Sergio Lopez is a nonprofit leader and candidate for Campbell City Council. He serves as director of development for the Junior State of America Foundation, a national civic education nonprofit, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Campbell Historical Museum Foundation. He graduated from Yale University. You can reach him at [email protected], or find
more information at LopezForCampbell.com.

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