Local environmental activists expect to spend the next few weeks advocating for an endorsement by Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman to join with mayors from 347 other cities nationwide to sign resolutions to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement.
Cities have acted on their own since President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement June 1.
If Laguna Beach signs on, it will be the second city in the county to do so after an endorsement by Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido.
The matter, initially scheduled for a City Council hearing next Tuesday, July 25, was postponed until Aug. 8 due to an overstuffed agenda, city staff said. The activists may welcome the delay.
So far, a Facebook page titled, Support City Council to Sign Paris Agreement, has only a handful of followers. The page encourages public attendance at the August meeting.
“The idea is to pack the house with people in green shirts,” said organizer Sara Lowell, of the Laguna Beach-based Marisla Foundation, which supports environmental causes. “We just want to show the city that there is support and to support them when they make the right decision,” she added.
Lowell pointed out Laguna’s stance as a leader in environmental protection. In 2007, the City Council signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Its citizens helped write an action plan in 2009 to implement its key provisions. Their goal was to meet or beat standards set by the Kyoto Protocol. To do so, the work group ascertained that Laguna Beach would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2012 from the 2009 levels.
Skepticism about whether the aim was achieved surfaced in a January 2012 City Council meeting, in a staff report about actions taken to implement the Climate Protection Action Plan. Staff noted “that it is virtually impossible to determine what the carbon emissions were in the city in1990 and therefore impossible to evaluate our progress toward reducing them.” Then Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger made the recommendation for an annual staff report on electricity, water and fuel use at city facilities.
Tom Osborne, a member of the group that wrote the plan with Kyoto standards in mind, said, “We likely have fallen short of attaining that goal.” Even so, he said, “the scientific consensus is that climate change is accelerating and the ongoing shift toward using alternative, clean energies must be sped up.”
A new staff report assessing progress on the aims of the initial climate protection plan is expected when the proposal over the Paris Agreement is discussed next month.
In the adopted version of the Paris Climate Agreement, the parties agreed to “pursue efforts to” limit a global temperature increase, which would require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050, according to some scientists.
Laguna already has met the less specific goals set forth in the US Climate Mayors pledge, which included creating a climate action plan, developing a greenhouse gas inventory and setting targets to reduce emissions.
The city’s strongest conservation efforts in recent years involve water, due in part to a six-year statewide drought. In 2007, the city started water saving measures that included the installation of waterless urinals and toilets that use 1.3-gallons per flush in city facilities. In 2009, the city adopted new state Building Standards on Graywater rules, providing guidelines for residents to install systems in their homes. By 2015, city landscape areas and four parks stayed green with smart irrigation controllers, low flow sprinkler heads and reclaimed water. Turf removed from the median on Laguna Canyon Road saved 500,000 gallons of water per year.
Another demonstration of the city’s commitment to sustainability and environmental protection involved its support of a fishing ban and including most of Laguna’s seven miles of coastline within two marine protected areas, which took affect in 2012.
By 2013, single-use plastic grocery bags were banned citywide. The city also took another step toward lowering its carbon footprint by adding 21 propane powered trolleys, which emit less carbon than conventional gasoline powered vehicles, to its fleet.
The Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus in December 2015 and signed by 195 nations and ratified by 153 as of last month.
While former President Barack Obama adopted the Paris Agreement with an executive order last September, the United States did not ratify the agreement.
In accordance with Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, the earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the United States cannot be before Nov. 4, 2020. Until the withdrawal takes effect, the United States may be obligated to maintain its commitments under the Agreement, including the requirement to continue reporting its emissions to the United Nations.
Some scholars question whether the U.S. is obligated to comply because the agreement was not formally ratified, the Washington Post reported June 1.
Regardless, there is widespread support among local activists for Iseman to sign on. Environmentalists including Greg, Barbara, and Meghan MacGillivray, Derek Ostensen, Chad Nelsen, Ben Warner and Rich German joined with Lowell in a letter urging adoption of the resolution.
“It is important for us to continue to take a stand in protecting our precious backyard,” said German.