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The Contra Costa County Climate Action Plan

Contra Costa County is developing a CEQA-qualified (The California Environmental Quality act serves to disclose to the public the significant environmental effects of a proposed discretionary project by requiring one or more specific documents)  Climate Action Plan (CAP) including GHG reduction targets in line with California state code §15183.5.  Because of the County’s goal to be CEQA-qualified it’s more important that they support their GHG targets with substantial evidence that their target is aligned with state targets. In other words, there is more burden for them to "show their math".  While it is a worthy endeavor that the County is pursuing, the draft CAP does have several shortcomings that PK would like to see addressed in the final CAP.

The draft staff report could be written more concisely as to provide understanding of developing goals and strategies.  One suggestion is for more consistency in terminology, for example both "current" and "existing" are used to describe what seem to be the same emissions. Or maybe not....  Unless the CAP is describing different types of emissions the County should settle on a consistent term.  It would also be informative to have some content related to the mitigation and adaptation piece of the CAP.  And reduction targets say "at least" or "greater than".  Finally, sector specific goals should be elaborated upon and the 28 strategies developed in more detail.

In terms of pursuing efficiency metrics the following pro and cons should be considered by the County:

Efficiency metric (per-capita, per-Service Population): 


  • Allows for growth in an efficient manner, without "penalizing" a high-growth community
  •  Is based on an emissions profile and socioeconomic / land use growth characteristics that are specific to the community, and is not directly downscaled from the statewide targets


  • might "penalize" a low-growth community; more difficult to meet
  • Have to adjust statewide emissions to the "covered" emissions for the CAP (since the CAP likely doesn’t cover many statewide emission sources)
  • Should still show the community is on trend to carbon neutrality by 2045
  • May result in mass emissions that are greater (or much greater) than 40% below 1990 levels (or equivalent)

Absolute emissions (% below baseline):


  • aligns more directly w/ state target (SB32 = 40% below 1990 levels)
  • don’t have to adjust statewide emissions to the covered emissions for the CAP
  • easier to meet for low-growth communities than efficiency metric targets


  • might "penalize" a high-growth community; more difficult to meet
  • challenging to align a 2005/2010 baseline w/ state’s 1990 baseline (normally cities/counties don’t have 1990 inventories)

To address the Newhall Ranch[1] court ruling, the County must provide substantial evidence that the regional CAP efficiency threshold   (the intensity for the entity involved) for 2030 appropriately evaluates a project’s GHG emissions compared to state reduction targets for 2030, and demonstrate how it supports (and does not conflict with) the 2017 Scoping Plan {CARB’s plan to meet SB 32 goals (}. To address the Golden Door[2] court ruling, CEQA review of the CAP and any corresponding project GHG threshold, the County would have to provide substantial evidence that the regional 2030 efficiency target is appropriate at the project-level, explaining how it accounts for variations between different types of development within the region, and how it accounts for the differences in emissions intensities for new development versus existing development within the region.

As long as there is substantial evidence that: 1) the CAP target is consistent with the statewide target (leading to emissions that   would not be cumulatively considerable, per recent case law); 2) the CAP’s land use and emissions forecast includes the project being analyzed (or the overall growth assumptions in the CAP account for the project); and 3) the project is consistent with the GHG reduction measures contained in the CAP (demonstrated through a consistency review checklist or other similar system); then the project would have a less-than-significant finding under CEQA.

Finally, we believe both per-capita intensity metrics as well as absolute targets & metrics should be utilized by the County for maximum transparency and administrative efficiency.  Intensity metrics are valuable as they can demonstrate efficiency in a population growth environment, and should be compared to other counties, cities and statewide intensity metrics in the analysis.  However, note that the state as a whole has an absolute target, despite our expected statewide growth. Growing counties that set absolute targets in line with the state target (40% below 1990) are absolutely doing their fair share and the county should also try and achieve this goal.


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