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Climate Emergency: Cities Sound the Alarm and Spring into Action – Text

BY Sam Laird Senior Content Writer Bank of the West

Aug 24th 2020

More than 1 of every 10 people on Earth now lives in a community where climate change is officially an emergency. Cities, counties, countries—even the entire European Union—have formally declared a climate emergency. The Verge called 2019 “the year of ‘climate emergency’ declarations”, and the movement is rapidly gaining momentum and fueling action.

While the coronavirus pandemic presents an immediate crisis, these governments and municipalities also remain focused on the longer-term challenge of global warming.

Thirty of the 91 places in the U.S. that have made climate emergency declarations are in Northern California. This puts the region at the vanguard of climate solutions.

Here, we spotlight tangible actions from 8 Northern California cities that have declared a climate emergency. Some of the steps listed were taken before the declarations, which don’t always include specific action plans. But in every case, the cities that have declared a climate emergency are leading with real action. In our changing world, these proactive communities offer a preview of what a truly sustainable city could look like in the not-so-distant future.

1,437 Climate Emergency Declarations Worldwide

90 in the US

29 in Northern California

More than 1 of every 10 people on Earth lives in a community where climate change is officially an emergency.

Healdsburg (population: 11,800)

Installed 12 EV charging stations at city hall for public use, 1 of several recent climate actions. Climate emergency declared Oct. 7, 2019.

Windsor (population: 27,800)

Installed state’s largest floating solar-energy system atop water treatment pond. Will provide 90% of energy for water recycling facilities. Climate emergency declared Sept. 4, 2019.

Sebastopol (population: 7,400)

Banned all polystyrene items and nearly all single-use plastics. Zero-waste is 1 of 9 prioritized climate actions. Climate emergency declared Dec. 3, 2019.

Petaluma (population: 61,000)

Converted 4,323 streetlights to LEDs. City goal is carbon neutrality by 2045. Climate emergency declared May 6, 2019.

Fairfax (population: 7,500)

Reduced by 20% effective flush volume of new toilets and toilets involved in property deals. California uses 20% of its electricity supplying waterClimate emergency declared March 6, 2019.

San Francisco (population: 885,000)

Banned private cars on main downtown thoroughfare. Aims to shift 80% of all trips to walking, biking, and public transit by 2030. Climate emergency declared April 2, 2019.

Richmond (population: 110,000)

Residents can get 2 cubic yards of free compost monthly, 1 of over 10 programs helping toward city’s zero-waste goal. Climate emergency declared July 24, 2018.

Berkeley (population: 122,000)

First U.S. city to ban natural gas in most new buildings. City wants GHG emissions 80% below year-2000 levels by 2050. Climate emergency declared June 12, 2018.

Author image

Sam Laird Senior Content Writer Bank of the West

Sam joined Bank of the West in 2019 after more than 10 years in journalism. He’s also worked as a teacher, a grant writer, and a janitor, and prefers to spend his free time in nature.

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