By Sandy Simon
Back in 2016, the City of San Luis Obispo, CA (SLO) unanimously passed a municipal resolution urging Congress to pass carbon fee and dividend (CFD) legislation. In the years since, the city has continued to step up on climate. It was recently ranked the #1 small city in the U.S. on climate initiatives by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)!
In my view, the path toward this recognition began with the passage of a municipal resolution. Local chapter volunteers spent months meeting with individual city council members, lobbying and educating them, and having a substantial presence at the final meeting when the vote took place. As CCL’s National Resolutions Project Coordinator and former group leader for the CA San Luis Obispo chapter, I spearheaded and guided the resolution effort.
CCL volunteer Tyler Conrad recalls, “It was such an educational process, listening to our volunteers’ speeches at the council meetings and being there for the vote. All of us were elated at the outcome, and we felt the needle move in the city’s environmental commitments.”
The needle moved in other ways, too, rippling out to other cities. Conrad adds, “After our successful efforts in SLO, I was inspired to get a CFD resolution introduced in nearby Morro Bay, and the resolution passed in June 2016.”
A resolution gets a city in gear
Although SLO had created a Climate Action Plan in 2012, it had not yet acted on its provisions, according to city council members. After passing the CFD resolution in 2016, the city’s 2017-19 budget identified climate action as a major city goal for the first time, and that focus has continued in the current budget. SLO has established one of the most ambitious carbon neutrality targets in the U.S. (by 2035) and has established a strategic vision for achieving that goal.
When asked about the relationship between passing a CFD resolution and the city’s later focus on lowering CO2 emissions, SLO’s Sustainability Manager, Chris Read, agrees that a direct line can be drawn from the 2016 City Council’s passage of a CFD resolution to the 2017-19 (and later) budget, identifying climate action as a major city goal.
According to Read, “Such an effort [as passing a CFD resolution] builds and builds and eventually grows exponentially rather than linearly. Through that sustainability work, the City of San Luis Obispo has established deep connections in our community, in our agency, and with our peers throughout the state.”
Some of those connections are direct ones with CCL, in fact. The city’s current three-term mayor, Heidi Harmon, was a CCL volunteer before running for office. Prior to her being elected, Jan Marx was mayor for many years and was largely responsible for creating the city’s first Climate Action Plan. In addition to Jan being a CCL supporter, her husband, Steven Marx, served as CCL’s San Luis Obispo chapter Endorsements Team leader.
Recognition of the city’s climate efforts
CCL’s efforts in educating and lobbying SLO’s city council members to pass a CFD resolution in 2016 cannot be underestimated in terms of the path that inevitably led to the city being recognized by ACEEE as the #1 small city in the U.S. on climate initiatives. According to CA San Luis Obispo group leader Mike Segor, “The CCL-SLO chapter is fortunate to be part of a healthy political ecosystem here. While activists in the area tend to gravitate toward local projects, CCL’s job is to remind people that we have to work all levels of government simultaneously.”
The City of SLO received the top score of the group evaluated, and SLO is leading the way by setting goals to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, adopting green building standards, and working with partners to decarbonize the electric grid while making it more reliable.
According to Segor, “When a national Energy Innovation Act is enacted into law, cities and towns all over the country will look to path-breaking localities like San Luis Obispo for ideas about how to accomplish their own goals.”
For information on how to plan and pass a local resolution, visit the “Engaging City & Local Governments For Resolutions” page on Community. For a list of municipal and county Energy Innovation Act resolutions passed to date, visit the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Local Governments page.