Liccardo’s ambitious climate plan is right move for San Jose

Feb 27, 2018

By: Mercury News Editorial Board
Mercury News

When President Trump goes low on the environment, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo goes high.

His Climate Smart San Jose proposal going before the City Council on Tuesday would make San Jose one of the first major cities in the United States to develop a plan to meet the Paris Accord greenhouse gas reduction targets that Trump rejects.

It’s the right move for the city that is the heart of Silicon Valley’s innovation economy. San Jose leaders would be remiss in meeting their civic responsibilities if they ignored the potential impact of climate change. But it will be a challenge to meet the ambitious housing and transportation goals set forth in a plan costing public and private investors an estimated $264 billion between now and 2050. Especially given that San Jose anticipates growing by 319,000 people over that same time period.

The three most ambitious goals in Liccardo’s nine-point plan include:

  •  Making San Jose by 2040 the first city in the world to produce a gigawatt of solar power, enough to power 250,000 homes.
  •  Lowering per capita water consumption by 30 percent.
  • Reducing carbon emissions from car trips by 1 million tons a year through the increased use of electric cars, public transit options and construction of urban villages near workplaces and transportation hubs.

Climate Smart San Jose builds on Mayor Chuck Reed’s 2007 Green Vision, the city’s first major effort to integrate environmental sustainability into all aspects of city government. What’s different about Liccardo’s proposal is its focus on the co-equal goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the lives of San Jose residents.

“We can make San Jose a happier city to live in if we can reduce the time people spend in traffic,” said Kerrie Romanow, director of the city’s Environmental Services department. “We have to make it possible for people to walk and bike to the grocery store, shops and restaurants, which will reduce congestion.”

A crucial part of achieving that goal is improving the city’s poor jobs-to-housing ratio. San Jose remains a net exporter of commuters. Adding more jobs in and around San Jose planned urban villages enables people to work closer to where they live, making it possible for them to walk, bike or take public transit to work. It also provides the city with additional revenues to provide more services.

Liccardo is also touting the planned launch later this year of San Jose Clean Energy, the community-choice energy program. It’s designed to offer residents an alternative to PG&E, giving participants the choice of using 100 percent emission-free electricity. The city has set a goal of making clean energy available to all users by 2021.

San Jose scored higher than any U.S. metropolitan city in 2017 in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. The City Council should approve the mayor’s climate plan and work toward making San Jose a model for hitting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for decades to come.