California challenges cities to compete to cut carbon emissions

Bike commuters
The California Air Resources Board wants cities to compete in fighting climate change by signing up residents to log actions they are taking to cut carbon emissions. Above, bicyclists during a morning commute on Market Street in San Francisco.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The California Air Resources Board thinks a little friendly competition might inspire Californians to scale back their driving, cut electricity use and take other steps to reduce carbon emissions.

The agency on Thursday announced a second round of the CoolCalifornia City Challenge, where cities compete to see how much they can cut their emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

On the line is $100,000 in prize money that will go to cities based on how many people they sign up and how many points they earn in an online tracking system.

Participants use a carbon calculator to log their activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their communities. They can earn points by cutting household energy use or tailpipe emissions, for instance, by hanging laundry outside instead of using a dryer or riding a bike to work instead of driving.


“It’s a fun way to unleash civic pride and engage both households and community groups in simple, everyday efforts to cut greenhouse gases,” Mary Nichols, chair of the Air Resources Board, said in a news release. “It helps spread the word that it’s cool to cut carbon.”

California held the competition for the first time last year, enrolling more than 2,600 people in eight cities. That’s a tiny number of participants for a state of 38 million, but the Air Resources Board says the actions they reported cut more than 225 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. That’s comparable to taking 95 California homes off the electrical grid for a year.

The 2013 winner was Davis, which was crowned “Coolest California City.” The runners-up were Chula Vista and Tracy, which each earned the title of “Cool California City” for finishing in second and third place, respectively.

This year, cities have until March 30 to sign up for the competition, which will run from April to August.


The competition is being administered by the Air Resources Board and a team of renewable energy researchers at UC Berkeley who have been producing online maps and tools that allow users to calculate and compare their carbon footprints.

Twitter: @tonybarboza

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