Opinion: Green Light

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Laguna Moves on Climate Action Plan

By Tom Osborne

On Nov. 14, the front page of my Los Angeles Times ran a stark photo of a burned forest in Sheep’s Creek Calif., captioned: “The state has recently seen worsening fires driven in part by climate change.”

The article focused on the just-released Fifth National Climate Change Assessment conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most prestigious body of climate scientists (numbering more than 700) in the world. Bottom line: While cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we’re not doing it at the speed and scale necessary to avoid catastrophic consequences.  

Against this global backdrop, our town convened a meeting that night to inform residents of the status of the commissioned Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) in progress. About thirty people attended, including councilmembers George Weiss (plus his wife, Deborah Laughton) and Sue Kempf, City staffer Jeremy Frimond, Environmental and Sustainability Committee chair Shelly Bennecke, and committee members Steve Chadima, Judie Mancuso, Anne Girtz and Dane Pflueger. Matt Lawson, the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee chair, also attended. Laguna Beach Independent newspaper editor Clara Beard, whom I had just met, joined the gathering. I apologize for any other committee members whom I don’t know and, therefore, whose names are not mentioned above. 

Placeworks, a California-based environmental consulting firm founded in 1975, is drafting our City’s CAAP. After company officials opened the evening, Senior Associate Eli Krispi provided an overview of the plan’s components that have yet to be written. The document will build on “the 2009 Climate Protection Action Plan,” which he saw as a solid foundation. Overall, the CAAP goal was to reduce our city’s GHG emissions and strengthen our resilience to the continually warming climate. Krispi said several times that Placeworks’ plan would be framed with Laguna Beach’s art and environmental culture in mind.

Introductory remarks were followed by questions from the audience and responses by Krispi and city staffers. One resident asked whether the goals of the 2009 CPAP had been met in terms of GHG emissions reductions. No one knew the answer. My wife, Ginger, asked whether the updated CAAP would include explicit timelines for meeting measurable goals, to which Eli answered “yes.” 

I asked if progress on CAAP implementation would be publicized via a city webpage devoted to climate matters, and the answer was “yes” again. In fact, I was told that such a page was already up and running. 

Additionally, in preparation for the meeting, I typed a list of seven recommendations for inclusion in the CAAP that I handed to council member Weiss and consultant Krispi. These included our city adopting Community Choice Energy for a cleaner mix of electricity, replacing our internal combustion engine fleet vehicles with EVs as soon as possible, installing solar panels on as many city buildings as feasible, increasing the number of trees on public properties, funding community gardens, providing information to the public regarding climate-related tax rebates and subsidies now available via the Inflation Reduction Act, and issuing quarterly updates in our local newspapers on implementation of the CAAP.

The latter part of the meeting was spent by attendees visiting five so-called stations in the room, where we asked further questions of Placeworks’ personnel and posted our personal climate actions and concerns. This interactive phase of the evening facilitated dialogue and, in my opinion, evidenced Placeworks’ commitment to tailor the forthcoming CAAP to Laguna Beach’s particular needs and values. The consulting firm said that the updated plan should be finished and submitted to our city in September 2024.

Of course, it’s too early to speculate on how good the CAAP will be, but I left the meeting with a positive impression of this most important project for our city. Laguna is moving forward with planned climate action.

Tom Osborne chaired Laguna Beach’s work group that wrote the Council-approved Climate Protection Action Plan of 2009. With his wife, Ginger, he co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. [email protected]            

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m all for cleaner water and air and pragmatic policies to address this, but how does one equate “climate change” to forest fires? The LA Times clickbait headline states this relationship as a fact. It is not. Recent fires in both Southern CA and HAwaii were caused by high winds (which both locals have experienced since the advent of weather records) and the fires were caused by electrical lines falling.

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