This City Is Making Climate Action Affordable for Low-Income Residents

Solar panels dot houses in residential San José, California.

Solar panels dot houses in residential San José, California.


Connecting state and local government leaders

“You don’t need to drive a Tesla to benefit from the green dividend,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo.

San José, California released one of the first municipal climate plans in the U.S. on Thursday, charting a path toward the Paris Agreement’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Climate Smart San José consists of two primary components, the first being the provision of 100 percent emission-free electricity to all members of the city’s community choice energy program, launching in the spring, by 2021.

The second is the 1 million tons-per-year reduction of carbon emissions from vehicle trips by 2030 through the expansion of ridesharing, electric vehicles and public transit.

“You don’t need to drive a Tesla to benefit from the green dividend,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in a speech outside City Hall. “We want to ensure that the entire community benefits and the entire community is pushing together.”

Reduced energy and water consumption will alleviate the financial burden on low-income residents, Liccardo said.

Last year the United Nations named the San José metropolitan area No. 1 in the U.S. for meeting sustainable development goals, and soon it will be the largest city in the country with a CCE program allowing residents to choose renewable electricity at rates competitive with the local utility’s own.

Requests for proposal have been issued for new electric buses to the airport and investments made in Caltrain’s electrification. 

Plans are underway to double the number of EV electric charge points around town. Liccardo himself drives a Chevrolet Volt.

San José’s plan boasts a number of partners. Pacific Gas and Electric, which is providing funding through the Step Up and Power Down program, while the nonprofit GRID Alternatives is installing solar on multi-family buildings in low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

Feedback from more the 2,000 residents went into crafting the plan, which includes community playbooks for citizens and businesses outlining sustainable changes they can make now.

“With our plan, San José will be an even better place to live and an even greener place,” said Kerrie Romanow, Environmental Services Department director. “And a model that we hope others can mimic and improve on and continue to develop over the course of the next few decades.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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