Ann Hancock and Mike Sandler started The Climate Center in 2001, with a focus on influencing local government to prioritize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. While working on Sustainability First, a general plan for the City of Marin, Ann had learned about the global ICLEI program Cities for Climate Protection, whose motto is “local action moves the world.” The program works with local governments to commit to and achieve greenhouse gas reductions goals.
Ann and Mike believed that for climate protection to succeed, places like their home community—Sonoma County—had to set the bar, so they founded The Climate Center (originally The Climate Protection Campaign) to provide leadership and support for local governments.
In summer of 2001, they set the organization’s first goal: to have the county and all nine of its cities commit to the Cities for Climate Protection program by 2002. The issue of climate change was not in the spotlight at that time, but Ann and Mike achieved their goal four months ahead of schedule. Sonoma County was the first county in the nation to have all its cities and the county be 100% committed to emission reductions.
With the county and all cities on board, the Center began calculating the emissions for all local government operations and the community at large. Emission inventories for local government operations were completed in September 2003, and inventories for the community were completed in 2005. This paved the way for the next step: setting an emissions reduction target.
The Center organized a goal-setting workshop that included representatives from each of the ten local governments in the arenas of business, youth, government, and the community. The representatives concluded that they would recommend that Sonoma County and its cities reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2015, the boldest target in the U.S. at the time. From there, The Climate Center developed the Community Climate Action Plan, a blueprint for achieving the emission reduction target in a cost-effective and politically feasible manner.
Once the Plan was completed, the Center began efforts to implement solutions in every part of our fossil fuel-based economy—transportation, land use, buildings, solid waste, agriculture and forestry. The Plan determined that Community Choice Energy is the most powerful, cost-effective, local solution for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, the Center prioritized the establishment of Community Choice in Sonoma County. It achieved this objective in May 2014 when Sonoma Clean Power, the second operational Community Choice agency in California, began serving customers. (Marin’s was the first agency.)
Following the success of Sonoma Clean Power, the Center’s priority shifted to helping other communities establish Community Choice.
Significant additional milestones include:
• 2014: Began work to bring Community Choice Energy to Silicon Valley
• 2014: Sonoma County recognized by the White House as one of sixteen national Climate Action Champions for action to cut carbon pollution and build resilience
• 2014: Held the first annual statewide Business of Local Energy Symposium
• 2016: Began work to bring Community Choice Energy to the Central Valley
• 2017: Culminated 3 years of work when the City of San Jose voted unanimously to move forward with establishing a Community Choice agency
• 2017: Awarded first World Changers Career Pathways (an ECO2School program) student internships and scholarships for work on climate solutions
• 2017: Launched the Climate Action Fellowship to build an exponentially-growing body of climate advocates