Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Final Climate Action Report Clears Throat, Still Seems Short on Actual Plan

The revised "final" draft of the Climate Action Plan has been out now for over a week, and the team chose not to make very many changes from the preliminary draft.

(The rest of this post covers no real new ground, maybe a few new details, and repeats themes in criticism. It may not be very interesting if you are looking for new observations. See very bottom for links to previous posts. Here is the list of edits in the revised document. They truly are minor edits, not substantial revisions.)

SF Chronicle front page today

There is no actual plan to reduce emissions by 50% in 2035.  Crucially, the core of any plan, the suggested actions, are displaced into an appendix, still formally outside of the plan document proper and very discretionary. Even with some enthusiastic rhetoric, on action the document is tentative rather than decisive, the deferral of decision and action to some future plan and moment.

The center is displaced

The process still seems to be stuck in an earlier phase, that of "strategy development." No matter how much they want to say we have "a plan," how many times they use the word plan, it doesn't look very much like an actionable plan. Just saying there is "a robust list of 183 recommended strategies" is neither plan nor "roadmap...for years to come."

Still in "strategy development"

Even talking about action in general is provisional in the document. Not we will, but we "can undertake" actions. Maybe not yet though. It is not very decisive, feeling and hope only.

Not very definite: "can undertake"

Indeed, they say we need a "clear and effective governance structure" before we can do anything meaningful. Again, "the plan" does not envision a situation right now in which very much action is plausible. Action, the execution of any real plan, requires that new or modified governance structure and process.

Need another layer of government

And the conclusion continues the tentativeness. We are "well-positioned" in potential, but not exactly ready to "embark."

Loose and vague

This "plan" is not ready for adoption. It should be pulled and revised substantially in one of two directions:

  1. The most important materials and "strategies" from appendix 8 should be incorporated into the body of the plan along with a timeline and plan for implementation. It should be an actual roadmap or recipe, something that can be followed, tested, measured, and as needed modified at regular intervals. New Electeds in each cycle should be able to pick it up and know what is the next step. It should be a plan!
  2. Absent that, if the center of the "plan" is instead going to be mere intent and preliminaries like suggestions for a new "governance structure," the plan language should drop the euphemism and enthusiasm and discuss more soberly and directly ways Salem is not yet ready to "embark." It should be more honest and plain about hesitation that this "plan" enacts. If home use of fracked/fossil gas is a show-stopper, for example, that deserves explicit discussion, not silence.

Perhaps significantly, there is very little public talk about this new revised plan. Our 350.org chapter has not said anything publicly about it, and if the plan in this "final" draft was awesome, they would be shouting about it, mobilizing support. Other people and places are similarly reticent. The reception has been very low-energy.

A milquetoast reception is sure sign of a milquetoast "plan."

But instead if we considered it prolegomenon to a plan, it might have real value. Call it what it is: An introduction.

Recently, on the plan:


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Sadly, I totally agree with you. There is nothing in here to get excited about. There is nothing that speaks to me. If an interested person like me, a believer, is not enthusiastic about the 'plan' then how do we get the average Salemite interested?

My recommendation was to create small easy things that the average person could do. Many small changes add up! But I see none of that even hinted at in this plan. I know that the response will be to say, well this is just the broad outline and the details will come later. But by whom? Who is going to do the work of coming up with an action plan to implement anything? I guess that's the structure that you speak of being needed. Maybe a Citizen Advisory Committee is the least that we might suggest, but that is a sure fire way to slow down progress. To appoint a Council subcommittee is not wise because councilors come and go. Where do you get accountability and continuity?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: "small easy things"

How do you read Chapter 10, "Community Action: Everyone Has a Role to Play"?

Especially pages 62-64, "Actions for Individuals"?

Jim Scheppke said...

For me the "plan" can be found on page 50 where there are 18 outcomes we must achieve to meet the Council goals for 2050 and 2025. To achieve these outcomes we need to pursue all of the 183 recommended strategies in Appendix 8. I am happy with this plan. We can't delay any longer. The Council needs to approve with Salem Climate Action Plan in January and we need to move on to implementation immediately. Call it good and let's go!

Jim Scheppke said...

Correction: 2035

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I meant to say "create brochures of small easy things" the average person can do. Practically no one is going to read the CAP document or even go to the City webpage to see a long list.