In public comments praising county staff’s Climate Action Plan proposal in April, Sustainable Napa County’s Jeri Gill told the Board of Supervisors that Napa needed to go on a carbon emissions diet.
Last week, the board decided it wants an environmental nutrition plan that still includes a substantial chunk of chocolate cake.
Eight months after hearing that staff had created a climate plan clearly designed to ask the most from the county’s cash cow, the wine industry, supervisors sent staff back to the drawing board last week to devise a plan more focused on reducing traffic and addressing the county’s housing issues.
The proposal they heard last week was not significantly different from the one presented in April. Yet no alarms were sounded then. So why did county leadership ask for a such a drastic shift last week?
Perhaps Supervisor Diane Dillon said it best in April: “People don’t pay attention to these things until it directly affects them.”
The significant implications of the climate proposal on new winery development and expansion are better understood now that several test cases have been applied to the standard. The wine industry pushed back once it saw that expansion proposals — especially those that sought to attract more tourism — would be hit hardest by the new environmental targets.
The wine industry argued that the proposed restrictions — which called for new projects to reduce carbon emissions by 38 percent — were infeasible without the purchase of costly credits to offset their emissions and did not value good deeds done by winemakers to protect the environment after the 2005 standard for carbon levels was set.
Napa vintners and grapegrowers should be applauded for the environmentally friendly methods they have developed in the past decade to reduce carbon emissions.
But Napa wine professionals should also help pioneer a new — and necessary — standard for environmental stewardship.
Everyone agrees vehicle traffic is the local environment’s biggest villain.
Napa’s wine and tourism industries are the reason that traffic exists.
Those industries must then be at least partially responsible for finding solutions to the problems created from those trips.
The message last week from winemakers was clear: The Climate Action Plan’s hammer blow to new transportation-reliant development is the wrong course.
County supervisors agreed. The model county staff has been asked to create now would reduce traffic without deterring more tourist visits and would likely promote more affordable housing.
No small task, to be certain. Traffic and housing concerns have festered for decades and their impact continues to grow.
A climate plan based on these ideals will require significant innovation in the county’s transportation planning and housing makeup.
Local wine and tourism leaders should be at the forefront of that research.
Every year, Napa wineries, hotels and restaurants shovel millions of dollars into marketing efforts designed to bring more people into the valley. Some of those funds should be diverted to assist the county in its task of radically changing the way people move from Point A to Point B in this county.
Napa is known throughout the world as an agricultural trailblazer and should strengthen that reputation by stepping to the front of the climate change movement.
The wine industry must help Napa County have its climate cake and eat it, too.