This section of the element identifies and addresses primary sustainability issues raised during the outreach efforts for the General Plan Update. Policy guidance is found in the goals, policies, and actions section of this element. An explanation of specialized terms can be found in the General Plan Glossary (Appendix A).
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change
The concept of sustainability is associated with state laws that focus on the need to reduce California’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, to global climate change. Executive Order S-3-05, signed in 2005, proclaims that California is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sets greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Assembly Bill 32, also known as the California Climate Solutions Act of 2006, requires that statewide greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020 and reduced 80 percent further by the year 2050. Senate Bill 97, enacted in 2007, amended the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) statute to establish that greenhouse gas emissions and their effects are appropriate subjects for CEQA analysis. Senate Bill 375, signed in 2008, is intended to link regional transportation plans with state greenhouse gas reduction goals. Under Bill 375, state agencies and local metropolitan planning organizations (such as the Butte County Association of Governments) are required to develop Sustainable Community Strategies (SCS) to cut greenhouse gas emissions. These state actions are intended to build upon each other with a shared focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The City of Chico has not been waiting for State directives or programs to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Below are early steps the City has undertaken on its own accord:
- Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement (2006) - In 2006, Chico’s Mayor signed the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, adding Chico to a group of over 600 cities united in pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This milestone led to the creation of the Sustainability Task Force, a committee that provides input to the City Council on sustainability issues. An early effort of the Task Force was to conduct an inventory of greenhouse gases.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (2008) - The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory measured the amount of heat-trapping gases that the community released to the atmosphere in the baseline year 2005. By quantifying emissions, this inventory established a benchmark against which emissions reductions can be measured. The inventory will be updated to measure emission changes over time, which helps guide the management of reduction strategies and policies. Also in 2008, the City Council approved a specific greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 25 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.
- Chico Climate Action Plan (2011) - The City will maintain a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that identifies programs and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Council’s greenhouse gas reduction goal. Specifically, the CAP identifies the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the sectors such as transportation, energy, and waste to be targeted for emissions reductions, and it provides emission reduction goals and strategies with an associated timeline and budget.
The Sustainability Element provides goals, policies, and actions that address the City’s role in statewide climate change mitigation efforts and that confirm the City’s ongoing commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The City of Chico supports energy conservation, and this element calls for additional programs to further reduce the energy needed for municipal operations. A successful municipal energy reduction program will help serve as an example to encourage community-wide action. Municipal operations, however, represent only a small percentage of the total electricity and natural gas used throughout the City. Therefore, community-wide efforts are essential to achieving overall reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Although the City has less direct control over behavior than municipal operations, it does have regulatory authority in important areas like land use, building and transportation policy. Also, it has the ability to provide incentives and facilitate initiatives that promote energy conservation.
The City’s ability to influence energy efficiency in existing buildings will be critical to achieving its sustainability goals. This element identifies several actions for increasing energy efficiency, including increased coordination with PG&E to provide education about energy consumption and methods for reducing energy use, and consideration of a Citysponsored low-interest loan program for property owners interested in installing energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy devices.
Local government performs best with informed citizen participation. A high level of citizen participation is a distinctive characteristic of Chico, where residents serve on boards and commissions and regularly attend meetings and hearings to provide input on decisions. Chico also has many active neighborhood associations, business groups, and advocacy groups that participate in local issues. The General Plan supports continued neighborhood outreach programs that seek to increase participation in neighborhood issues. To ensure that residents are well-represented, Council, committee and commission meetings will continue to be structured to recognize citizens’ input. In addition to timely and clear notification of meetings, the City will seek new opportunities to increase public involvement in local government. Advances in communication technology offer new ways for residents to participate in local government, and the City will explore using these options as they become available.
Many issues relevant to Chico residents such as transit, parks, schools, and air quality are regulated by agencies other than the City of Chico. Public agencies such as California State University Chico, Chico Unified School District, Butte County Association of Governments, Butte County Air Quality Management District, and Chico Area Recreation District also make important decisions affecting Chico residents. The General Plan seeks to increase participation in all local decision-making processes.
Fostering Partnerships For a More Sustainable Chico
Partnerships and ongoing communication are critical tools for achieving a sustainable Chico. Residents, businesses, community groups, schools, and other organizations all need to be engaged and actively participating in the effort to create a socially, environmentally, and economically healthy community. The City must be an effective leader and partner in sustainability efforts. Participation in larger scale sustainability efforts is critical because local environmental, economic, and social issues are a part of a broader regional, national, and global context. The General Plan promotes the development of strong working relationships between the City and other entities, such as Butte County, CSU Chico, Butte College, local businesses, non-profit organizations, and other government agencies to accomplish Chico’s sustainability goals.