Story by Zoe Schlaak
Photo by Ella Jayasekera
Graphic courtesy of Rincon Consultants, Inc.
South Pasadena has finalized a permanent Climate Action Plan and aims to implement it in the coming weeks. The City hired private environmental consulting firm RinCon to create long-term goals to primarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Action Plan intends to make the community more environmentally sustainable in six main categories — energy, transportation, water, solid waste, carbon, and municipal — to meet California’s carbon neutrality goal by the year 2045.
In terms of energy, the action plan continues the City’s collaboration with the Clean Power Alliance to use 100 percent renewable energy. This includes implementing more zero-emission transportation options like public and shared transit to meet the objective of a 25 percent increase in non-polluting vehicles by 2045. One way South Pasadena has worked to meet that requirement is its recent transition to electric shuttles within community programs such as Dial-A-Ride, which helps elderly citizens travel around town.
City leaders are also seeking to reduce the per capita water use by 10 percent before the year 2030. South Pasadena has already issued measures to save water such as the Water Conservation Ordinance which prohibits residents from watering their yards or landscapes between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Reducing waste and increasing recycling is vital to the Climate Action Plan and essential to meet the environmental requirements of SB 1383. This bill, which goes into effect in 2022, mandates that jurisdictions need to create community education and outreach programs on recycling organics to decrease the amount of solid waste being sent to landfills. The plan instructs the City to reduce residential and commercial waste sent to landfills by 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045.
Currently, South Pasadena residents do not recycle since the City contracts with Athens for waste management. As the entire Climate Action Plan is not public yet, it is unknown whether that contract will remain in the future.
The plan’s carbon section is designed to improve local air quality by raising carbon sequestration levels, or the long-term storage of carbon dioxide, through planting more trees and creating larger green spaces.
Air pollution has been a major health concern lately because of the local wildfires creating unsafe outdoor conditions for residents, establishing an unprecedented relevance for the Climate Action Plan.
“The record-breaking fires and heat waves experienced on the West Coast this summer show climate change is here now and already poses serious risks to human life, health, and property,” William Kelly, member of the Natural Resource and Environmental Commission (NREC), said. “For the sake of our children and future generations, it’s time for everyone in South Pasadena and communities across the planet to do what they can to reduce the carbon-based emissions that are heating the planet. It’s time too to put climate adaptation measures in place to protect our health and welfare from increasingly deadly heat waves.”
In 2019, the NREC implemented a Green Action Plan which created temporary goals for community members to reduce single-use plastics and improve water conservation which paved the way for the longer-term Climate Action Plan.
Despite the City’s various pledges for sustainability, residents have criticized local leaders for not doing enough to combat the existential crisis that is climate change.
“There is a neglect of attention from the older generation of people, who hold the power, to make a change,” junior Samantha Molina said. “The only power we have is to beg and ask for those in [leadership] positions, to please make a change, hear our calls, and listen [to us] to combat climate change.”