Marin Independent Journal: San Rafael earns B on students’ environmental report card

By Janis Mara, Marin Independent Journal

San Rafael got a B on a climate report card from students in the Marin School of Environmental Leadership at Terra Linda High School, who called the city’s efforts “a good start.”

Sophomores Ana Ostrovsky, Cameron Evans, Hayden Nuyens, Julian Olson, Myla Gupta and Sawyer Taylor presented the “Youth Climate Report Card” at last week’s City Council meeting.

The report card is a science-based tool developed by youth organization iMatter that measures how well a city is doing at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the levels needed to protect the youngest generation from the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“We come here today to voice what the youth feel the priorities of the coming year should be in the way of climate change planning,” Evans told the council.

The group said that San Rafael has been a leader in climate change, though there’s still ground to be covered.

“San Rafael’s efforts to date have been a good start — thank you,” Olson told the council. “But we have a ways to go.”

Ostrovsky, in an interview, said the city has a really good green energy program, Deep Green with Marin Clean Energy, so they got an A in that category.”

“There’s also Pacific Gas and Electric, which is converting slowly to green energy as well,” she said.

However, Ostrovsky said, the city is “not so good at waste. We don’t have a goal to go to net zero emissions by 2040. It’s only 80 percent emissions by 2050, which is what the state says, but it’s not the leading climate plan.”

Cory Bytof, the city’s sustainability coordinator, noted, “There are community emissions and city emissions. City government represents less than 2 percent of the emissions in San Rafael. The city has 58,000 people and city government has less than 400 people..”

The report card is about community emissions, Bytof said.

“When they talk about MCE and PG&E, almost 80 percent of our residents are signed up with MCE,” Bytof said. “It’s really about what we are doing as a community. Because of MCE, we are doing really well.”

As far as the emissions goals, Bytof said the city’s climate action plan “is the intersection of city and community. It’s the blueprint for how our community gets there.”

The plan was published in 2009. “This year the city of San Rafael will be revising its climate action plan and considering interim goals as well. That’s when we can set that net zero goal,” Bytof said.

“We don’t know if the council will go there, but that’s what we ‘re going to look toward,” he said.

The students also asked the council to adopt a “Climate Inheritance Resolution,” which is a commitment to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas level to net zero emissions by 2040, and to continue to involve youth on the city’s climate action planning.

The resolution has not been placed on an upcoming agenda yet, but Ostrovsky said she is confident it will be.

Four of the six students who presented the report card also attended a quarterly implementation forum for the climate action plan at City Hall last week on Thursday.

“There were representatives from different organizations in Marin including Marin Clean Energy, Marin Sanitary and Resilient Neighborhoods. They had a lot of questions about how to reach youth our age,” Evans said.

In response, the students recommended educational social media accounts.

“Especially right now, it’s important to know what’s real and what’s not.” Evans said.

The report card team is typical of the programs of the Marin School of Environmental Leadership, said David Kessell, a parent adviser to the team.

“They always have a parent adviser and a community or industry adviser who is the nominal subject matter expert,” Kessell said. Larry Kraft of iMatter is the adviser in the report card project, he said.

“I think this is a really good environmental sustainability message here and a good educational message,” Kessell said. “The students learn to apply critical thinking and analytical skills, and they make changes.”

David Tow, who teaches the seminar class at the sophomore level at the environmental program, said, “It’s much more of a project-based class than a content knowledge class. Zero emissions by 2040 was one of their suggestions.

“Their presentation to the City Council is a testimony to how thoughtful and globally aware these kids are,” Tow said. “I can’t wait to see what great work they do in the future.”

Read the article on marinij.com here.

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