Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Climate Action Plan Frothy but Empty

The City and project team have released a Preliminary Public Review Draft of our Climate Action Plan.

I do not understand it. It reads like a sales and marketing document, not like a policy plan. If the goal was to have a plan for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2035, we are still distant from having that plan.

The very first words

From the start, it sells good intentions and lofty language, but it is very short on actual policy recommendations to achieve the outcomes it teases. It says we are "taking action," but aside from the action of publishing the plan, what action is there? Our "ambitions" seem content to remain ambitions, not actions.

Tentativeness: "Might be able to achieve"

Indeed, in the Executive Summary, there is already a retreat, and the actions are qualified as those we "might be able to achieve." In the body of the plan, distinct from the appendices attached to it, there are only three policy recommendations, and these lack any estimate for impact on total emissions. They are mentioned only because they are "cost-effective."

The only actual recommendations?

And they seem vitiated by the coach speak, the "determined resolve" of trying hard. ("Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," etc.?)

In the main part of the plan, the only "implementation recommendations" are meta, recommendations for process and for institutionalizing some future version of a plan, not recommendations for policy action in this plan.

Meta: Plan about a plan

Towards the end there are two sections on "actions for individuals" and "actions for organizations and employers."

But there is no actual policy in the plan that will incent or require individuals, organizations, or employers to undertake these actions, and the list seems like off-loading responsibility in a discourse of climate delay. Rather than asking individuals to "opt for active transportation," what is our suite of policy actions that will make active transportation the easy, convenient, and obvious choice? Right now our policy actions make driving the easy, convenient, and obvious choice, and "opting for active transportation" is swimming upstream against the current.

Off-loading responsibility

We are left with a conclusion that promises "innovative progress" but does not actually enact any progress. There is nothing actually innovative here yet. This is the hype of vaporware chasing venture capital funding!

"Innovative progress"

See recent notes:


MikeSlater said...

I think I agree with your assessment.

MikeSlater said...

Oops. Looks like I jumped the gun in my assessment. There is an appendix 8 that provides detailed and a not yet completed appendix 9 that needs to be considered.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Appendix 8 appears to be an updated version, albeit with better page design, of the spreadsheet noted here, "Draft Strategies for Climate Action Plan Still Evade the Heart of the Matter." They are merely listed as tactics, not actually prioritized or shaped into an actual strategy, and are not incorporated into the main body of the plan. As an appendix only they are very secondary. It's still just spit-balling.

If the plan critically depends on a forthcoming Appendix 9, then is it not yet ready for public comment, and should have been withheld until that was finished and revised in light of it.

Whatever is in these appendices, it does not seem like it can change the overall weakness of the main plan document.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The City and project team have revised the landing page and edited out any reference to Appendix 9. It seems increasingly unlikely that Appendix 9 will be published in time for this round of comment. In light of that, it's appropriate to assess the plan without reference to Appendix 9.