Representatives from Sonoma County are convening at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Egypt to share what they’ve learned combating devastating disasters and forging initiatives to rebuild and reduce the region’s carbon footprint.
Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers was among the first in the local delegation to arrive in Sharm El-Sheikh, where he’ll be joined by Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward and others from the North Bay who were invited to attend the COP27 conference.
Officials from Sonoma Water, the county agency, and The Climate Center, a Santa Rosa nonprofit, will also be attending the conference, along with Leo Chyi, district director for Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
A partnership between Global Council For Science and The Environment, Sonoma Clean Power, the public electricity supplier, and Sonoma Water is funding the local delegation’s trip to the conference.
“We’re here to tell our story — it’s one of disaster and tragedy,” Rogers said Thursday from his hotel room in Egypt. “We’ve been able to rebuild in such a climate-forward way. We’re a model for the international community on what you can do with a bit of political will.”
Over 50 panels take place each day during the two-week conference, which began Sunday, with panelists from across the world, he said.
During his first panel appearance, Rogers, who serves on the board of Sonoma Clean Power, discussed how the public electric provider is supporting efforts to curb carbon emissions tied to the North Coast.
The agency, formed nearly a decade ago, and now the dominant electricity supplier in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, provides customers with electricity that is, in its basic service, 92% carbon-free.
It continues to invest in projects that prioritize renewable power.
“That’s the story that’s important for people to hear at this conference,” Rogers said.
He said one of his appearances included a discussion of California’s initiative to clean and beautify public spaces in undeserved communities, as well as its leading efforts to track carbon emissions, Rogers said.
While the local delegation is on hand to share Sonoma County’s experience, Rogers said they also will also be keen to learn from others.
He spoke with leaders from Israel about their drought-related programs — an area where he believes Sonoma County has “fallen behind.”
“As climate changes, how will our county grapple with drought?” Rogers asked. “How do we adapt?”
Brad Sherwood, assistant general manager of Sonoma Water, will discuss extreme weather and climate adaptations during a panel Tuesday. He’ll speak about the moisture-laden storms known as atmospheric rivers and a pioneering, multiyear initiative to improve forecasting that allows more of that water to be captured and stored in local reservoirs
“We’re showing what we’ve learned, how to build and rebuild through fires and droughts,” he said.
Elward, who was raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and touted the African continent as having the lowest carbon and gas emissions, said she’s proud to be at the conference to represent Rohnert Park.
She promoted the city’s efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by banning the building of new gas stations. Petaluma was the first city in the nation to do so in March 2021, followed in August 2022 by Santa Rosa, the largest U.S. city to pass such a ban.
Other Sonoma County cities, including Sebastopol, Cotati and Windsor also have enacted bans.
Elward is focused on sharing ideas and, as she is fluent in French, looks forward to helping bridge conversations with foreign leaders.
“We’re showing people how Sonoma County is known for resiliency,” she said. “We have so much to do.”
You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at email@example.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.
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