UC Merced said a new program organized by its partner, the Great Valley Center, will offer free assistance to local governments in the San Joaquin Valley to help them develop an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.
Eventually, the program will offer recommendations on how each city can reduce the amount of energy used in its own operations.
The Green Communities Program, funded by PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission and implemented with the help of ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability, will pay interns from UC Merced, University of the Pacific and CSU Stanislaus to work with staff members in participating cities, UC Merced said in a news release.
So far, cities that have signed on to participate in the Green Communities Program are Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Patterson, Oakdale, Riverbank, Hughson, Waterford, Newman and Livingston. Stanislaus County and the cities of Los Banos and Sanger are also looking into the program.
The Great Valley Center interns will use meter information to assess energy use while also interviewing city staff members about solid waste management, sewage treatment, landfill emissions and even commuting practices. They will then offer customized recommendations based on the findings.
“The Green Communities Program works to equip local governments with information to make better decisions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions as they reduce energy consumption,” said Dejeune Shelton, interim executive director of the Great Valley Center, in the news release. “The cities that are a part of this program will be able to use the data to implement their greenhouse gas reduction goals effectively, which will have a positive effect on their community’s quality of life.”
Many large cities in the Valley, including Sacramento, Stockton and Fresno, have already started planning for climate change. But smaller cities often lack the financial resources or staff time to commit to these programs or hire consultants, according to the news release.
In addition to helping those cities plan for climate change, the program also gives cities an opportunity to become leaders in sustainability, setting an example for their residents and neighboring towns.
“This will be an extremely valuable program for these smaller cities in our Valley,” said Tim Fisher, the Great Valley Center’s energy program manager, in the news release. “In addition to revising development patterns, city governments can lead by example and take steps to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle fleets, landfills, wastewater treatment plants and administrative buildings.”
The program also furthers UC Merced’s overall sustainability goals, which include raising awareness, understanding and knowledge of sustainability within and beyond the UC Merced community by enabling elected officials to incorporate sustainability in their decisions and policies.
With the final list of participating cities nearing completion, Fisher said in the news release that the interns will probably begin working with city staff members next week.