by Sam Levin
At last night's meeting, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to adopt benchmark targets to cut the city's global warming pollution -- an important first political step in the much larger effort that will hopefully follow.
Spearheading the campaign, the Oakland Climate Action Coalition, in conjunction with the Oakland Public Works Agency's Environmental Services Division, recommended a 36 percent reduction below 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050.
These goals, which after last night's vote are now the official target levels of the city, are on par with the nation's leading cities, and locally a bit more aggressive, said Ian Kim from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, one of the major partners in the Oakland Climate Action Coalition.
"It is in keeping with the new science that shows that the estimates of last year are a little outdated," Kim added.
Kim said that the Coalition was initially concerned that one or two members may not have been on board to vote for the targets, but after the Coalition met with council members prior to the meeting, Kim said that they were fairly confident the targets would pass.
The effort, moving forward from here, will be a long, difficult process, Kim said: "We need to make big changes in ways that are socially equitable." A challenge in Oakland, he said, is the struggle to support environmental efforts while simultaneously "protecting Oakland's most vulnerable neighborhoods." Specifically, he said the efforts of the coalition must involve advocacy for higher density in the city with more affordable housing.
The two major challenges in the long haul, Kim said, are first "reaching a tipping point amongst Oakland residents" so that the knowledge of climate issues reach all of the city's communities, and then changing the way people go about their day to day business. Kim said, "How much are we willing to change the way we live? We can't look for the easy way out."