Napa County has identified 42 possible carbon-cutting steps to beat predicted climate-change heat, from seeking commuter rail to reducing agricultural burning.
The draft county climate action plan is available for public review and comment. Its ideas apply to Napa’s world-famous wine country and other parts of the unincorporated county, with cities coming up with their own strategies.
“Climate change is a global problem, but one that must be addressed on a local level through partnerships and individual activities,” the draft plan says.
What would Napa County life be like in a decade or two if suggestions from what amounts to a county carbon-cutting recipe book become a reality?
New buildings, be they wineries or homes, would be up to the latest energy-efficient standards. So would major alterations to existing buildings. Most rural customers would not only be using Marin Clean Energy for electricity, they would be choosing the more expensive, 100-percent renewable energy option.
If a water heater at a rural home wore out, the replacement wouldn’t be powered by natural gas. Rather, it would use some of that Marin Clean Energy electricity or an alternative energy source, such as solar.
Such steps would address building energy use, the sector identified by the draft plan as the single-biggest generator of greenhouse gases at 31 percent.
Travelers would do their carbon-cutting share. Vehicles on roads and highways are the second-biggest greenhouse gas contributor at an estimated 26 percent.
More visitors to wineries and other destinations would take carpools or shuttles, given more parking spaces would be reserved for such transportation. Employees at wineries and hotels might travel to work on the Napa Commute Rail Special running on the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.
Fewer local workers would be driving to Napa from other counties. More would be living in new affordable housing in local cities.
Meanwhile, most boaters on Lake Berryessa and the Napa River would use boats powered by alternative fuels.
The county’s agricultural industry would do its share, given that it accounts for an estimated 11 percent of the rural county’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers would stop burning agricultural waste, such as old vineyards cleared away for replanting. They might haul this debris and other materials to a possible wood-burning energy plant that the county helps build.
Farmers would also use low-polluting tractors and other equipment and pump water with irrigation pumps powered not by gas, but by Marin Clean Energy electricity or solar power. They might have bought this equipment at below-market prices using financial incentives.
Napa County tried to pass a climate action plan in 2012. The wine industry objected, saying the plan singled it out for a disproportional share of the carbon-cutting. The county Board of Supervisors in December 2012 asked for revisions, among them a greater focus on transportation.
Rex Stults of Napa Valley Vintners said Monday that the group supports creating a “scientifically based climate action plan for Napa County.” Napa Valley Vintners has more than 500 members.
“We didn’t think the last one was up to par,” Stults said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t want a climate action plan.”
Napa Valley Vintners is working on comments to submit to the county on the latest proposed plan, he said.
Napa Sierra Club has also been tracking the evolution of the proposed climate action plan.
“We are very glad the city is moving ahead with a climate action plan and that one of the measures talks about the county working with the municipalities of the county to create an overall plan,” said Christina Benz of the group. “That will be really important for the ultimate effectiveness of the plan.”
But the county’s draft plan doesn’t address black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons, all of which are coming under state and regional air board attention, Benz said. The Sierra Club fears the county might miss out on getting state money to reduce these types of emissions.
The proposed plan gives little credence to climate change skeptics. Rather, it cites a scientific consensus that humans must cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly by mid-century to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
For Napa County, “catastrophic” includes threats to its wine industry in coming decades. The county has 475 wineries, the plan says.
“Increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation and soil moisture could impact the growing of wine grapes by causing late or irregular blooming and affecting yields,” the plan says.
Napa usually has no more than two heat waves annually of at least five days with temperatures 92 degrees and hotter, the plan says. That could increase to three-to-five heat waves annually by mid-century and as many as 16 annually by century’s end.
Fire and water could both be threat. The plan envisions more wildfires and a sea level rise that by century’s end could increase the acreage at risk from storm-driven flooding from 36 acres to 13,000 acres, including parts of downtown Napa.
In 2014, unincorporated Napa County emitted an estimated 484,283 metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That’s the equivalent to combusting 54.5 billion gallons of gasoline, according to the plan.
Based on state targets, the county could decide to cut 2 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030 and 77 percent by 2050.
State and federal legislation, combined with the county’s recent switch to Marin Clean Energy as the default rural electricity provider, should allow the county to make that 2020 goal and then some. These steps should also provide a 28-percent boost toward the 2030 goal, the draft study predicts.
Beyond that, the draft plan suggests those 42 possible local steps.
People can submit written comments on the draft plan to the county through Friday. They can also comment on the plan when it goes before the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors at dates yet to be announced.
Go to www.countyofnapa.org/CAP to see a copy of the draft plan.