On Oct. 25, the Yolo County Climate Action Commission, the working body charged with guiding the development and implementation of the County’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), made its first progress report to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. The commission’s chair, N.J. Mvondo, provided the Board and the public with an update on early climate actions and steps being taken to achieve the County’s goal of a carbon negative (climate positive) footprint by 2030.

The most recent measure for Yolo (unincorporated areas) greenhouse gas emissions was 1,082,801 metric tons of CO2 equivalents (Yolo GHG Inventory Update, 2018.) Davis, by contrast had 567,000 metric tons of emissions (2019.) Yolo is ahead of most counties in both policy and substance when it comes to climate action, with water and farmland conservation and county solar electricity generation. The Climate Action Commission is a new and more robust effort to address climate change, at the County, and we can thank our youth leaders in Yolo County and around the world for its existence.

In 2019, the local Global Youth Climate Strike inspired the Yolo Climate Emergency Coalition grass roots organization to confront the County with what was then and now, the arrival of climate change crises. And crises it was as 2020 turned out to be a terrible year of fires and COVID onset. Despite the difficulties and because of the imperative these conditions presented, the climate volunteers and the County conducted a year long process to see through the adoption of the County’s Climate Emergency Declaration (Resolution 20-114, October 13, 2020). One of this Declaration’s material outcomes was the formation of the Yolo County Climate Action Commission, now staffed and ready for more action and more community input.

A key provision of Declaration 20-114 is to center County climate action policy and implementation on vulnerable, marginalized, and historically underserved communities. To this end the Commission approved the creation of one of two CAAP Working Groups: Equity and Engagement (Natural and Working Lands being the second group) and has recommended compensation policies for community members who may not otherwise be able to prepare and attend the multiple monthly meetings anticipated by the County Climate Action Commission including: Working Group and Commission meetings, intercounty meetings between departments, meetings with the Cities of Yolo and annual meetings with state-wide organizations to learn and share best practices.

“Community engagement is key to a successful Just Transition — to successfully mitigate the damages and further risks caused by climate change,” Mvondo said. “I hope that, as much as possible, our County’s Climate Action Commission thrives as a synergy between community-based organizations, elected officials and family farms’ interests in being an integral part of this process.”

The 11 volunteer member Climate Action Commission consists of one volunteer from each of the five county supervisor districts, two volunteers chosen by the appointed Commission members and two subject matter experts appointed by the Board of Supervisors with staff recommendation. The commission also has two ex-officio members, Sarah Morgan, natural resource manager for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and Camille Kirk, UC Davis campus planning and environmental stewardship.

Commissioners include Suzanne Reed, District 1; Robin Datel, District 2; Mark Aulman, District 3; Andrew Truman Kim, District 4 (vice-chair); Adelita Serena, District 5, Chris White, technical lead; Bernadette Austin, climate scientist and subject-matter expert; Pelayo Alvarez, climate scientist and subject matter expert; Mica Bennett, at large; Ken Britten, at large; and Mvondo as environmental justice lead (Chair).

You may know one or more these citizen volunteers. Let them know you appreciate their efforts.

The commission has approved six climate early action projects and continues to guide the process to hire a Climate Action and Adaptation Planning team, a process now in its final month. The six early actions underway are: 1) Carbon Farming Partnership; 2) Electrification Retrofit Rebate Outreach Program; 3) 100% Renewable Electricity Accounts; 4) Home Energy Labeling; 5) Inventory and Feasibility Study to Remove Fossil Fuels from Yolo County Operations; and 6) Zero Emission Vehicle Master Plan. Exciting? Not Exciting enough? Let the commission know on or before their fourth Monday of the month meetings.

Yolo County’s sustainability manger, Kristen Wraithwall, serves as the staff liaison for the commission and was hired by the county in March 2022 to lead climate action and sustainability efforts. County supervisors have also approved a sustainability analyst position to help handle the grant application and administration load that has exploded as public sector climate action is now on everyone’s mind.

Taro Echiburu, the county’s director of community services, and a 10-year county veteran formed the sustainability program. He will be retiring from his position at the end of 2022. Echiburu’s stalwart work at equity, communication and program development will be very much missed at the county.

The county hopes to launch its upcoming Climate Action and Adaptation Plan update in December. Just recently, the county conditionally awarded the highly anticipated Climate Action and Adaptation Plan work to Dudek, an environmental engineering firm with offices across the U.S. The county is steps ahead in developing that plan having a dedicated commission to put its shoulder to the task and meet the goal of net-negative carbon by 2030.

For those unfamiliar with what it means to reach a carbon-negative goal, it does not mean entirely eliminating oil and gas use — it means that the sum of all carbon emissions is less than the sum of carbon sequestered into soil by microbes, plants and other carbon absorbing processes. Yolo is an agricultural county and through carbon farming, the use of solar, wind, electrical infrastructure, food localization and emerging technologies, the county is well positioned to convert water pumping, transportation and food processing applications to clean power.

Yolo Climate Action Commission meetings are held via Zoom on the 4th Monday of the month from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Meetings and sustainability-program activities and events can be found at the county’s sustainability website, as well as on Facebook and Instagram. The meeting are recorded. Recordings, agendas and meeting materials can be found on the www.yolocounty.org/sustainability website.

This article was posted originally in the Davis Enterprise Nov 26 2022.

From left, N.J Mvondo (commission chair), Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza, commissioner Adelita Serena and Yolo sustainability manager Kristin Wraithwall attend the 13th annual California Climate & Energy Collaborative Forum in San Diego in September. Courtesy photo