What can a city actually do when it comes to climate change?

Climate change may seem like the type of large-scale issue best addressed by countries and their governments.

But individual cities can do much more than many people think.

As part of the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Minister Shane Rattenbury of Canberra, Australia, joined forces to sign a “Carbon Zero Cities” declaration, pledging to become carbon zero by 2050 or sooner. 

As a carbon zero city, Sacramento and its residents would be powered entirely by renewable energy. Ultimately, Sacramento would no longer produce greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to directly and indirectly support human activities.


At the meeting on Sept. 14, Steinberg and Rattenbury gathered with elected officials from mid-sized cities around the globe to discuss opportunities and hurdles in addressing climate change, and to form joint-working relationships. Representatives from places such as Copenhagen, Jalisco, and Boulder were in attendance.

Video: Mayor Darrell Steinberg explains what carbon zero means to Sacramento

Days after the summit, Steinberg teamed up with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon to launch the joint Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change with the goal of drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the two cities.

“By working together, we can accelerate and shape the transition to a clean energy economy that’s already occurring to ensure that it benefits our local businesses and residents,” Steinberg said. “We can strengthen Sacramento’s position as a hub for investment in clean technologies and promote social equity and economic prosperity for all.”

The commission, to be led by retired CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Anne Stausboll, will build political support for aggressive climate action and devise strategies for both cities to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, also referred to as carbon zero, by 2045.

“As we’ve witnessed this summer, the potential impacts of climate change on our community are daunting,” Stausboll said. “This initiative gives us the opportunity to accelerate efforts to ensure a healthy and livable Sacramento for our children and grandchildren.”

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