Oakland mayor heads to Paris for climate conference

After receiving an invitation, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will be winging her way to Paris Tuesday night to meet with other major city leaders from around the world to exchange success stories in blunting global climate change.

Because of its great strides, Oakland was one of just 12 U.S. cities invited to attend the Paris climate conference. Mayor Schaaf's trip -- funded by non-profit groups, not taxpayers -- will present a message for the planet.

Her message is rooted in the solid accomplishments of this port city.

 "Oakland's very proud. Since 2005, we've seen a 10 percent reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions," said Mayor Schaff.

"We are 68 percent lower per capita in emissions than the U.S. average or 44 percent lower than the California average. So we are already among the leaders of the best out there," added Oakland's Sustainability Manager Daniel Hamilton.

What cities do is crucial, because 70 percent of all energy-related carbon emissions come from them. History has shown that what cities do often changes or determines what national governments do.

"We know our communities. We're in connection with them. We know what changes they're willing to make and we have the authority and power to actually effect those changes within our communities," said Schaaf.

In Oakland's case, the achievements are varied and many. Oakland has some of the nation's best recycling and composting programs. The East Bay Municipal Utilities District digester uses sewage to make electricity to run the treatment plant and put electricity into the grid.

It has an efficient transportation system powered by cleaner, renewable fuels. Its urban agriculture program provides locally grown food requiring little or no transportation. At the port, cargo ships are hooked up to shore power instead of running their own diesel generators; cutting down on asthma is West Oakland.

"This is not just a greenhouse gas emissions issue. It is a public health issue," said the mayor.

Nonetheless, even as the mayor carries her message of accomplishment to Paris, the levees around Oakland Airport are being raised and strengthened to protect the runways from the still ever rising sea levels that could inundate it.

Other cities invited to the climate summit include Atlanta, Boulder, Columbus in Ohio, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, King County in Washington, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, West Palm Beach, and  the California cities of Chula Vista and Santa Monica.