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Napa students strike for climate (copy)

Susu Steyteyieh, a junior at Vintage High School, created a sign for the Schools Strike for Climate demonstration in September. Students gathered in front of the Napa County Administration building in downtown Napa to demand policy change during the global protest.

Leaders from Napa County and its five cities are talking about their jurisdictions working together to cut local greenhouse gas emissions, but precisely how remains to be seen.

They met last week as the Climate Action Committee and plan to meet regularly. Their goal is to find how the county and its cities might come up with some unified strategies.

“My hope is we have the gentle strength to help our community embrace and respect new thinking and new standards for how we approach the future,” St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth said.

A crowd packed the county Board of Supervisors chamber to watch the proceedings and address the committee during public comments.

Local high school student Isabel Martin said climate scientists are warning the world must lower carbon dioxide and climate pollutant emissions to net zero by 2030 to avoid dire consequences. Reaching this goal will require changes in all aspects of society in only 10 years, she said.

“I will be only 28 years old by then,” Martin said. “I don’t have time to grow up and be a scientist or run for office. By the time I will be able to do that, it will be too late. That’s why I need you to help us solve this problem.”

Already, Napa County has seen stronger wildfires, stronger heatwaves and longer droughts, she said.

Net zero means emitting no more greenhouse gases than are removed. The Climate Action Committee in only its second meeting didn’t discuss whether to pursue that ambitious commitment.

Calistoga City Councilmember Gary Kraus said the group needs a strategic plan.

“Setting some goals and objectives and then having a report card, however often this group is going to meet, to keep measuring what it is we’re doing,” Kraus said.

Napa Climate Action Now! member Chris Benz suggested the group have a grant writer. That could bring money for such things as an anaerobic digester to turn methane – a climate pollutant – from food waste compost into power or compressed natural gas.

Her proposal met with interest from the Climate Action Committee.

Committee members talked about possible future agenda items. Ideas included looking at cumulative impacts of projects, deforestation, biodiversity retention, renewable diesel and trips generated by schools.

“We should be hearing more from our business community at some point,” Yountville Mayor John Dunbar said.

But isn’t whatever Napa County might do a mere drop in the climate pollutants-cutting bucket, if the problem truly is the global one portrayed by many scientists? Maybe not, Ellsworth suggested.

“Napa Valley, Napa County is recognized worldwide,” Ellsworth said. “If we lead the way here, I believe we can make a big difference on what’s happening in the global situation.”

The committee chose Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza as chairperson and Napa City Councilmember Scott Sedgley as vice chairperson. It heard what type of greenhouse gas-cutting steps each jurisdiction is already taking. It heard what steps the wine and farming sectors are taking.

“We have to make sure we do it right and we’re structured appropriately to deliver beyond the words into action,” Pedroza said.

At the next meeting, the committee should identify a staff member to help it. Then it should start identifying the goals, the resources, the structure and grants, he said.

Jim Wilson of Napa Climate Action Now! after the meeting called the results a spark. But he made it clear that he wants to see more than sparks from the Climate Action Committee.

Climate Action Committee members are Pedroza, Sedgley, Ellsworth, Kraus, American Canyon City Councilmembers Mark Joseph and Kenneth Leary, Napa City Councilmember Liz Alessio, Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht, St. Helena City Councilmember Anna Chouteau and Yountville Town Councilmember Marita Dorenbecher.

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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.