The plan is two-fold: to help city government cut back on its carbon emissions and to find ways for residents to leave a smaller carbon footprint.
Julie Haas-Wajdowicz, Antioch’s environmental resource coordinator, presented an update on the city’s efforts at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. According to a survey by the California Energy Commission, Antioch in 2005 emitted roughly 308,954 metric tons of greenhouse gases and Contra Costa County gave off 12,335,904 metric tons of greenhouse gases.
Haas-Wajdowicz would like to see Antioch’s number come back down. “Greenhouse gases are good; they’re necessary for our planet to stay warm and habitable for us,” Haas-Wajdowicz said. “The problem is that you can have too much of a good thing and it can make it a bad thing, where we are raising the temperature of our planet above where we want it to be.”
She outlined the negative impacts raised by the levels of toxins residents released, such as an increased water level, declining snow pack, poorer air quality and hotter weather.
Haas-Wajdowicz explained several ways Antioch could become a greener city, on both a micro and macro level.
Establishing carpool lanes on Highway 4 could garner an annual savings of more than 45,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases (20,800 in peak hours and 24,600 in the remainder). The city could also increase participation in the Green Business Program, which would save another 3,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, according to Haas-Wajdowicz.
Antioch has already taken measures to reduce its harmful output by installing light-emitting diode streetlights and traffic lights that require less energy to operate and last longer than traditional lights. Within city properties, Haas-Wajdowicz suggested providing more bike racks and greater involvement in recycling, among other solutions.
On the other end of the spectrum, residents can cut out about 1,200 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually by simply walking or biking to work more often. Increased ridership on public transportation would save 417 more metric tons per year. Haas-Wajdowicz asserted that taking a bike or walking for short trips could go a long way.
City Councilman Gary Agopian was on board with the effort, offering to ride his bike to City Council meetings instead of drive.
Agopian did make one change to the department’s plan. Whereas the original wording stated that new homebuyers would be required to upgrade to energy-efficient and “green” facilities in their houses wherever possible, Agopian felt that tacking on extra costs to the homebuying process would be a deterrent. Requirements included replacing energy-inefficient toilets, shower fixtures, furnace, air conditioners and other appliances. He requested that the city promote, rather than require, these changes, a motion that was approved.
“Adding cost at the point of sale I don’t think is the most effective way to implement this strategy,” Agopian said. “That cost, added to the home buyer or the home seller would be astronomical.”
The city invited and received substantial input from the community in the plan’s drafting. The environmental resource department held four workshops last year in which residents brainstormed ways to leave a smaller carbon footprint.
Antioch’s community and municipal climate action plans may be viewed at www.antiochclimateaction.org.