First published in the May 7 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank City Council recently approved a sweeping update to the city’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, or GGRP, that some officials hailed as a local “Green New Deal.”
The council unanimously passed the update, the implementation of which city staff members estimated would require a $2-billion investment through 2045, during its Tuesday meeting.
The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 49% below 2010 levels by 2030, as required by state law, to 66% by 2035 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.
Reaching those goals, according to the plan, will require investing in renewable energy sources, hiring more consultants, facilitating modes of transportation besides personal vehicles, encouraging the use of electric cars and reducing water consumption.
Each of the individual policy actions will come before the City Council for consideration.
“Ultimately, you’ll have the final say on the extent to what is implemented and what that means in the long term,” Fred Ramirez, assistant community development director, told the council.
Climate change scientists have warned that drastic measures are necessary to avoid substantial threats to human well-being, intensifying wildfires and ecosystem degradation.
The 500-plus-page plan notes that, without mitigating measures, the average maximum temperature in Burbank could rise by an estimated 10.3 degrees Fahrenheit between 2005 and 2100, compared to 5.1 degrees with mitigation.
The city’s average maximum temperature was 75.4 degrees Fahrenheit in 2005, according to the document.
Short- and medium-term plans include installing protected bike lanes between the Metrolink Station and downtown Burbank, implementing the California organic waste recycling law and partnering with the Burbank Housing Corp. to switch appliances in affordable residential units from gas-powered to being powered by electricity.
Long-term goals include converting the city’s fleet to electric vehicles and installing solar panels on rooftops.
A 2019 study referenced in the update indicated that 44% of Burbank’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, while 30% come from electricity generation for non-residential uses and 10% come from electricity generation for residential uses.
The GGRP also details other items such as making sure appliances in all new construction in the city be powered by electricity by 2023; encouraging the conversion of 3,000 residential and 170 commercial gas-fueled air-conditioning, ventilation and water-heater units to electric heat pumps by 2030; and planning a net of 5,000 new trees by 2045.
The plan’s $2-billion price tag is a hefty one, council members acknowledged, though City Manager Justin Hess said Burbank Water and Power — whose proposed appropriations total nearly half of the city’s $791 million budget — will take on much of the responsibility.
BWP General Manager Dawn Roth Lindell added costs for utilities are “skyrocketing,” but new technology could lower expenses. Also, the city has already budgeted for some of the plan’s items, city administrative officer Karen Pan said.
The City Council praised the update, noting the necessity of countering the effects of climate change.
“I was a little disappointed to read it the first time,” Councilman Nick Schultz said, “because we all know we need to get there a whole lot sooner than 2040, but in reading and rereading it, I see that staff put (in) a lot of attention and detail, and I understand the limitations that we’re facing.”
The city first adopted a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan in 2013 as a supplement to its housing plan. As city staff members developed the update, the municipal Sustainable Burbank Commission endorsed a “Green New Deal” document from Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, containing a set of sustainability policies.
Sunrise Movement L.A. is an organization advocating for similar climate policies across the nation.
While city staff members included most of the proposal’s suggestions in the GGRP, some are absent. The commission and Sunrise Movement proposed a target date of 2030 for BWP carbon neutrality, significantly sooner than the city’s 2040 goal.
The package also called for banning gas leaf blowers, making it illegal for homeowner associations to require grass lawns, and hiring and retraining workers formerly employed by the fossil fuels industry.
“Climate catastrophe is an existential crisis on this planet,” said Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony. “Will we, as a society, ruin the very planet that is our home? … This, in essence, is kicking off nine years of what I hope to be a very successful … Green New Deal for Burbank.”