Learn about the climate action petition to be presented to Menlo Park City Council
Menlo Park residents have been experiencing clear evidence of the climate crisis, including prolonged droughts, devastating wildfires, scorching heat waves on the one hand, and on the other hand, atmospheric rivers and flooding, such as the storms earlier this year that caused extensive damage. On top of that, the climate crisis is disproportionately affecting areas of our community, such as the Belle Haven neighborhood, that are already burdened with higher levels of pollution and fewer resources.
Recognizing that local governments play an essential role in addressing the climate crisis, Menlo Park has been a leader in climate action. Our city was one of the first in the state to pass a reach code in 2019 that required new construction to be all-electric. In 2020, the city adopted a Climate Action Plan with the ambitious target of achieving net zero emissions by 2030, and one of the six key goals to achieving that target is to electrify 95% of existing buildings by 2030 – in other words, replace furnaces, water heaters, and other appliances that burn methane gas with electric or zero emission models .
In order to achieve the goal of electrifying the city’s roughly 10,000 existing buildings, which in addition to transportation accounts for more than 90% of the city’s emissions, the city needs to enact policies and programs NOW. To that end, the 350 Silicon Valley Menlo Park Climate Team, a volunteer group that was formed in May 2021 to support climate action in Menlo Park, and Menlo Spark, a non-profit working to support the city’s goal of zero carbon by 2030, are organizing a petition that will ask the City Council to make it a priority to electrify existing buildings at its goal setting session this spring. So far, over 100 individuals have signed in support of the petition, with the majority being Menlo Park residents, as well as residents of nearby communities throughout the Peninsula and Bay Area.
This policy is key to achieving our climate goals, and quite frankly, a livable future for our children and our community. To put it in perspective, according to Tom Kabat, Chair of Menlo Park’s Environmental Quality Commission and long-time electrification advocate, studies are finding that using the existing fleet of fossil-fired appliances, vehicles, and energy infrastructure for the rest of their normal lives puts us on a trajectory of going beyond the 2 degree Celsius increase limit recommended by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “This means,” Kabat concludes, “we have no safe climate atmospheric space to absorb the emissions of installing another fossil device as each existing one ages out.” We must transition to electric or zero-emission devices as gas appliances wear out – and preferably much sooner.
Without demonstrating the leadership to immediately pivot toward a safe future, we not only risk but we will see extremes in weather increasingly more devastating than what we have recently experienced, not to mention disruptions to agriculture and food supply, sea level rise, and the irrevocable loss of our planet’s biodiversity. These are serious and real consequences of inaction.
In taking action, however, Menlo Park has an opportunity to be a leader and set an example for the region and beyond, while also taking advantage of the tremendous momentum around climate action. Recent studies have increased awareness of the health impacts of gas stoves, and federal, state, and local programs are available to make electrification of one’s home less expensive. For low-income households, state funding and innovative partnerships between cities and entities such as BlocPower will help ensure that the transition is equitable and incur no cost to those who cannot afford it.
Neighboring cities have also been making strides. The City of San Mateo recently passed a strong reach code that addressed existing buildings, in large part thanks to the outreach and advocacy done by the San Mateo Climate Action Team that demonstrated to their City Council that residents are concerned and are asking that their local government take action. Most importantly, while recognizing the great urgency behind the petition, the team acknowledges that this is a starting point, and to truly further equity and environmental justice, the conversation needs to involve and uplift the voices of everyone in our community.
As David Attenborough writes in A Life on Our Planet, humans have “an ability, perhaps unique among the living creatures on the planet – to imagine a future and work towards achieving it.”
If you are interested in supporting an equitable and healthy future, you can read and sign the petition, A Healthy Climate Starts at Home: Electrify Menlo Park Homes and Buildings for an Equitable & Healthy Future by March 10, 2023.
If you have questions regarding the petition, please send them to email@example.com.
Note: John McKenna contributed to this post as did the Menlo Park Climate Team