Opinion

Measure HH Is Necessary to Lower Berkeley’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The measure, which plans to increase taxes on gas and electricity, is part of an effort to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent.

Berkeley has often planted the seeds of global social change, ranging from the Free Speech Movement led by University of California (UC) Berkeley students to the more recent tax on soda. So why should our approach to climate change be any less vigorous? Measure HH is a path forward in the attempts to lower Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions. The measure proposes a tax on gas and electricity, as well as aiming to create a system for managing the funds generated from said tax.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Berkeley declared a Fiscal Emergency. As such, the city does not have the resources available to effectively combat greenhouse gas emissions. Measure HH would establish a tax on every person in Berkeley — except for low-income families enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) or the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) — at a rate of 10 percent of their payments for electricity and gas each. The tax would allow for an estimated $2.4 million to be produced annually. This could then be increased by another $730,000 with a further 2.5 percent increase on the gas tax allowed by the measure. These funds would be incredibly useful in achieving the goals put forth by this measure, and general work towards climate equity.

A YES vote helps Measure HH act as an important change in working towards Berkeley’s plans for addressing global warming. It is a step towards goals set with Measure G in 2006 and the Climate Action Plan adopted in 2009, with the first aiming to have greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 80 percent from year 2000 levels and the second going for a 33 percent reduction by 2020. This second goal has, unfortunately, not been reached, with emissions having been lowered by only 15 percent. Therefore, this tax has been created to generate funds towards making these goals possible, with the added approach of encouraging a decrease in electricity and gas use among Berkeley residents.

Some Berkeley residents argue that a tax is useless for this matter since there is no assurance that the money will go in the planned direction. Measure HH has an answer to this issue. With the tax would come the establishment of the Climate Equity Action Fund and the Climate Action and Energy Commission. The fund would store any money generated, with regular recommendations and general guidelines for the use of the funds supplied by the commission. Both these recommendations and the analysis of the eventual use of the funds would be published yearly for use by both the public and City Council. These two organizations would ensure a consistent, positive motion in the use of the tax-money generated.

It is clear that Measure HH signifies a continued push for both the reduction of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions and, importantly, equitable regulations in this process. Continue the work for improving Berkeley and the world with a YES on Measure HH.

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