Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chose the target, make a plan, then act.

The following is a slight expansion of a post that I sent to the national Eco-Action Committee today. I have expanded it to give a bit more information, added some additional links for better navigation, etc. I would like to suggest that the plan I mention here is very much applicable to California and the GPCA. I am sure that it is quite in line with what OneSoCalGreen says.

I have just finished watching a teach-in hosted by the NY Academy of Scientces and sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, the Green Buildings Council and the Home Depot Foundation and a large group of other traditional funders, Rockefeller Foundation, etc.

The presenters were:
Dr. James Hansen, NASA Climatologist renowned for being muzzles by the Bush Administration.
Edward Mazria, American Institute of Architects and the Architecture 2030 project.
Chris Luebkeman. Director and leader of Arup’s global Foresight and Innovation initiative. Arup is a Consulting Engineering firm specializing in sustainable design.

You can find a list of the people from California who participated in the teach in here. If you want to read the presentations / materials, you can do so from this page:

I came away from this with the following observations.

1. Putting the primary focus of our global warming / climate change efforts on transportation is missing the biggest target. While transportation accounts for 27% of our energy usage, with corresponding CO2 emissions, the building sector accounts for 40% from building operations and another 8% from embedded energy load. Maybe we are picking the wrong target and should focus instead on sustainable buildings / sustainable cities.

2. Per Dr. Hansen, 25% of our ghg emissions will still be in the atmosphere for 500 years, no matter what we do now. From this, he had a chart that shows we can not afford to wait 20 years before we start taking actions.

3. Edward Mazria presented some very concrete things that the architectural design industry should be doing in order to bring the CO2 footprint of our buildings below 1990 levels by 2030. That is possible when you consider that 75% of the world-wide sq ft space will either be constructed or remodeled between now and then. That is called the 2030 Challenge. The goal is....
That all new buildings, developments and major renovations be designed to meet a fossil
fuel, greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 50%
of the regional (or country) average for that building type.
4. Dr. Hansen made the case that acting now is a moral imperative... that we are responsible for the world in which our children and grand-children will live. Part of this is to stretch the oil and gas reserves that we have to make them last as long as we can. We are on a track to use them up even faster.

5. While some of the suggested solution tasks are particular to the design industry (develop new tools that provide for instant analysis of the energy impact of design alternatives) there are a number which involve local approaches and regulations. What would the world be like if the performance standard quoted above were to be required before any local building permit was issued? If so, we would go a long way toward meeting the goal of pre-1990 levels of fossil fuel use.

Since I have joined this group, I have been a bit frustrated that what we do is in many ways totally disconnected from the things that really matter. The Green Party exists in order to be able to take political action. There are a number of scientists and intellectuals who can churn the numbers on carbon emissions and forecast what various levels of carbon taxes might achieve in reducing those emissions. When I ask myself what we can do that they can not, the list is very short, but points the way toward increased effectiveness as a political party.

I am asking that everyone on the Eco-Action Committee review the charts from Dr. Hansen and Edward Mazria. Following that, I would like to see the Eco-Action Committee confirm the goals of the 2030 Challenge.

If we can agree on that, then I want to see the Green Party take the following steps.

- Act to place a Green Party Member on the Planning Commission of every city and town where we have an organization. While many locals, county councils, etc. are focusing their energy on impeaching Bush, getting of Iraq and Immigration, acting on the local level begins with understanding our place in the environment and, more specifically how to create sustainable communities (click About Cities & Urbanism).

- Provide the materials and support that will guide that member in getting the 2030 Challenge Goals inserted into local building codes. This already exists. It should be a no - brainer for those communities that have signed on to the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

When our CoCo, Mike Ewall, was looking for success stories from Green Office Holders, we had a nearly resounding silence. As part of what we do regarding the 2030 Challenge, we must...

- Provide a clearinghouse of what is working and what is not working for Greens across America. This is intended to augment what I linked from the Green Institute above and should focus on environmental concerns.

At a minimum, I want to put this on the agenda for our next telecon. Between now and then, I also want to turn this into a proposal, to accept or reject. I would also ask that this belongs in the Green Issues WG 2 year plan.

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