Beverly Hills Kicks Off Climate Plan With New Committee

A Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is in the works for Beverly Hills in an effort by the city to achieve its long-standing goal of becoming totally carbon neutral by 2045. Work on the plan was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now back on track. A community advisory committee is being formed to oversee the creation of the climate plan and ten city commissioners have been appointed to the committee so far.

“The pandemic scared us off a little bit,” the city’s environmental compliance and sustainability liaison, Josette Descalzo told the Courier. “But we got our wheels back together and we’re moving at full speed now.” 

The Beverly Hills City Council is now preparing to choose five community members to complete what will be a 15-member committee.

“It is a community-wide [greenhouse gas] reduction goal, so it’s not just city operations or city facilities,” Descalzo said at an Aug. 12 planning commission meeting. “A successful climate action and adaptation plan requires community meetings. We want the entire community to know what it is, what are the goals, what are some of the programs that we need to do in order to reach the city’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.”

Thirteen residents applied for the five open community seats during an application period that ran from June to early August. The City Council will choose five of those 13 and is expected to officially introduce the committee in September.

“I think this is an extremely important endeavor,” said city planning Commissioner Myra Demeter as she volunteered to join the climate advisory committee during the August Planning Commission meeting. “I don’t think that there’s anything that’s more important for our community and for our future–for our residents–than looking ahead and ensuring that we reach the goal that has been set.”

Planning Commission Chair Andy Licht and Commissioner Tom Hudnut agreed with Demeter on the importance of the climate plan. Hudnut said the 2045 deadline for carbon neutrality sounded “fairly relaxed” to him and asked if there was flexibility to possibly accelerate the time frame.

City staff said the plan is flexible and the community outreach process will help determine how aggressively the city wants to pursue the goal.

An Aug. 9 report from global climate watchdog, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said without “rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” global warming will become increasingly difficult to slow. IPCC estimates global temperatures will reach levels scientists say could be beyond containment within 20 years if warming continues at its current rate.  

Halting worldwide carbon emissions would offer immediate air quality improvements, the IPCC said in a recent statement. However, it would still take 20 to 30 years for global temperatures to stabilize and many of the effects researchers attribute to climate change are already irreversible, like rising sea levels. 

“This report is a reality check,” said the co-chair of an IPCC working group, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, in an August statement. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”

For their parts, the State of California and Los Angeles County have set a similar carbon neutral goal for 2045. The City of Los Angeles has set its goal for 2050.

The first greenhouse gas reduction goal was introduced to Beverly Hills in the Sustainable City Plan in 2009. Stakeholders hope the new climate plan will help focus that goal.

Four meetings will be held at different stages as the plan is being created to update the community and invite residents to comment and ask questions. These meetings will be in addition to the city’s regular commission and council meetings where updates will be presented.

The climate action planning process will include measurement and analysis of current emissions in Beverly Hills and recommendations for mitigating future emissions. The plan will also include adaptability recommendations to prepare the city for the possibility of intensified droughts, extreme heat, fires and other conditions that could result from climate change. 

The finished plan is expected to be presented to the Beverly Hills City Council for approval next year. 

So far the advisory committee includes commissioners Myra Lurie, Alissa Rostin (Recreation and Parks), Sharon Ignarro, Mary Kay Schartz (Traffic and Parking), Wendy Nystrom, Sharona Nazarian (Public Works), Erica Felsenthal, Lee Hilborne (Health and Safety), Peter Ostroff and Mayra Demeter (Planning).

“I can’t think of anything that is, for all of us, more important for the future,” said Recreation and Parks Commissioner Myra Lurie at a July commission meeting when she volunteered for the climate plan committee. “I’m very much in support of this. I’d be very happy to be part of this [community advisory committee] as one of the commissioners.” 

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