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ESD Extra: San José and Partners Celebrate Sustainability Success

The City of San José joined community partners and stakeholders Sept. 12 in celebrating a year of remarkable progress toward a clean and sustainable future, achievements that will serve as a foundation for even bigger things to come.
Post Date:04/08/2019 6:20 PM
The City of San José joined community partners and stakeholders Sept. 12 in celebrating a year of remarkable progress toward a clean and sustainable future, achievements that will serve as a foundation for even bigger things to come.

City leaders gathered with advocates, nonprofits and representatives from the high-tech industry on Wednesday for “Leading Climate Innovation: The Silicon Valley Way,” the City’s official affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

The event served as an opportunity to brainstorm and build relationships. Representatives from businesses like Microsoft, Adobe, ChargePoint and Supermicro talked about sustainable practices, while leaders of GRID Alternatives, Acterra and other nonprofits shared their thoughts on inclusivity.

“Leading Climate Innovation” also highlighted a string of San José achievements born out of vital partnerships with community leaders, nongovernmental organizations and businesses.

CSSJ Conference SJCE
From left: San José Community Energy Advocates chairwoman Ruth Merino, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, City Manager Dave Sykes and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow celebrate the launch of San José Clean Energy.
On Wednesday, the City ceremonially “flipped the switch” to launch San José Clean Energy, the largest single-city community choice energy program in the country. SJCE began serving municipal accounts Sept. 1 and will provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to San José residents in 2019.

San José Clean Energy will be essential to the success of Climate Smart San José, the City’s ambitious new sustainability initiative. Approved unanimously in February by the City Council, Climate Smart commits the City to hitting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of the international Paris Agreement.

The strength of Climate Smart is one of the reasons the U.S. Green Building Council recognized San José this month as the first city in California to achieve LEED for Cities Platinum certification.

CSSJ Conference LEED
U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam discusses the City’s LEED for Cities Platinum certification as Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, Community Energy Director Lori Mitchell and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow look on.
“It’s cities like San José that are proof that the U.S. Green Business Council’s vision of a sustainable future for everyone and within a generation is not a far-reaching ideal,” Manesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC, told the “Leading Climate Innovation” audience in the City Hall Rotunda.

The City’s LEED Platinum certification is just the latest recognition of its sustainability leadership. In 2018, for the second year in a row, the San José-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area ranked No. 1 in the United States in the Sustainable Development Goals Index, a report produced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The City’s great strides in sustainability rely on a robust coalition of community members, nonprofits and businesses. Mayor Sam Liccardo thanked groups like Mothers Out Front South Bay, San José Community Energy Advocates and Center for Climate Protection for pushing the City to adopt San José Clean Energy.

“We’re blessed to be in the most innovative place on the planet with an incredible community,” Liccardo said Wednesday.

The City has helped build climate partnerships by connecting sustainability initiatives to improvements in the daily lives of the public. Liccardo spoke Wednesday about changing ideas regarding what it means to live “the good life.” People increasingly regard the good life as living in a walkable community, for instance, or “spending less time trapped in an automobile on an expressway.”

CSSJ Conference NGOs
From left: Social Progress Imperative North American Regional Director Justin Edwards, Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice member Jake Elder and Mayor Sam Liccardo discuss the role of NGOs in sustainability initiatives.
Jake Elder, a member of the Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice, credited the City with emphasizing the human benefits of sustainability.

“Talking about climate change in terms of jobs, health or quality of life connects it to tangible issues that matter to people. This is key if you want to build a broader base of support,” Elder said the day after attending “Leading Climate Innovation.”

Though Wednesday was an opportunity to celebrate, the coalition that built Climate Smart San José is not going to rest on its laurels.

“Eighteen months ago, we didn’t have San José Clean Energy or (the Clean Energy Department) and we didn’t have Climate Smart San José,” said Kerrie Romanow, director of the City’s Environmental Services Department. “So, let’s think about what we can do in the next 18 months.”

Romanow announced several new goals Wednesday in collaboration with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of more than 90 of the world’s largest cities representing a quarter of the global economy. The director of ESD said the City has committed to:
  • enacting regulations and policies to ensure all new buildings operate at net zero energy by 2030 and all buildings by 2050
  • owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net zero carbon in operations by 2030
  • reducing municipal solid waste generation per capita by at least 15 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • reducing municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • increasing diversion from landfills and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030
  • delivering inclusive climate action that benefits all citizens equitably

In addition, she noted that Mayor Liccardo has signed onto the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s “Diesel Free by ‘33” initiative to eliminate diesel fuel from City fleets by 2033 and pursue incentives that will upgrade private fleets. Diesel fuel is toxic and harms the health of children and other vulnerable populations.

“Let’s work together to help our youth have the future that was eloquently articulated and hoped for today,” Romanow said. “We simply can’t change the global climate here in City Hall, but, as we’ve seen by the remarkable events of today and the last several years, together we can create immense results.”
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