San Diego City Council Passes Historic Climate Action Plan

“Our environment is essential to our quality of life. That’s why I am very proud that our new climate action plan will help our communities thrive and create the green jobs of tomorrow.” San Diego City Mayor Kevin Faulconer

Dec 15, 2015 (San Diego) The vote was 8 to 0, with one council member absent, That was District 7 representative Scott Sherman. This was not just historic, but was unanimous. The City of San Diego has adopted a historic climate action plan. The plan includes “five strategies for achieving the (Green House Gas) GHG reduction targets: Energy & Water Efficient Buildings, Clean & Renewable Energy, Bicycling, Walking, Transit & Land Use, Zero Waste, And Climate Resiliency.”

The road to this moment started 5 years ago in the state of the city address, when then Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, who replaced Bob Filner after he resigned, announced his intent to pursue this path. Newly elected mayor Kevin Faulconer adopted this as one of the policies to pursue after he was sworn in. Yesterday the Council delivered.

Faulconer told the assembled press, before the vote. “This was truly a collaborative and group effort.” This is the list of the environmental and some business groups that formed part of this coalition, according to Nicole Capretz of the Climate Action Campaign:

American Federation of Teachers Local 1931, Center for Sustainable Energy,CirculateSD. Citizens Climate Lobby, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, Equinox Center. IBEW 569, League of Women Voters, SanDiego350, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus, SD Unified Council of PTAs, SD Chapter, U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club STAY COOL for Grandkids, Sullivan Solar Power, Surfrider Foundation, SD Chapter, Sustainability Matters, Students from E3 Civic High, Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California.

Then there was clergy who supported this plan, and community leaders from some of the most affected communities by climate change, such as

On the other side, was the Regional Chamber of Commerce. Both the Otay and San Ysidro Chambers, and the United States Chamber of Commerce. You can add to this list, San Diego Gas and Electric, which has already surpassed 33 percent renewables in their Renewable Portfolio and is now pledging to reach 50 percent of all energy delivered to San Diegans will be from renewable sources.

The support for this plan is deep and community wide. It included the Save our Bolts organization, incidentally. 

So what will the plan do? For those concerned with the emission of green house gases, the plan will reduce city wide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2035. This is now a legally biding commitment.

• Achieve 100% renewable electricity city-wide by 2035;

• Reduce energy consumption at municipal facilities by 15% by 2020 and an additional 25% by 2035;

• Achieve mass transit mode share of 12% by 2020 and 25% by 2035 in Transit Priority Areas;

• Achieve 15% urban tree canopy coverage by 2020 and 35% urban tree coverage by 2035;

• Divert 75% of solid waste by 2020 and 90% by 2035;

• Capture 90% of remaining landfill emissions and 98% of wastewater treatment gasses by 2035.

We are also linking to the full document.

As to electricity. The city in phase 1, which is in the next two years, will hire a consultant to start the city towards community choice aggregation It will also encourage the development of green technologies.

Reporting San Diego talked to Gloria after the presentation and we asked about the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Plan that was adopted before this. One that has been heavily criticized by environmentalist for not pivoting towards transit. He told us that the city has 40 percent of the votes in SANDAG. So his hope is that by example other cities in the county will adopt similar plans and that the next revision of the plan, they come every 5 years, will adopt many of the recommendations of this CAP, and will pivot towards a heavier emphasis on transit.

One major change from previous versions of the plan is that previous versions wanted people to retrofit homes to be more energy efficient before sale, now the seller will have to reveal water and energy use. This will be left to the buyer if they so chose.

Community support came from the Environmental Health Coalition. It came from places like Barrio Logan, where the effects of climate change are already obvious. One of the things the city will help with is planting trees, This is a recommendation from the United Nations, which helps cities to not just sequester carbon emissions, but also provides shade, which will help in heat waves.

There were 177 people who spoke in favor of the plan, another 40 who presented slips but did not in the end, and two who opposed this. One truly opposed it, The other opposed it becuase it did not go far enough.

Many of the speakers, from all kinds of communities, faith leaders from South East San Diego, a Catholic Priest representing Pope Francis, Grand Parents who want to leave a better world for their grand children, communities of color, business leaders, the all agreed this was the path of the future.

When the council spoke, there were some questions about implementation. In the end, there was another theme that resonated. This is just the beginning. This is the first step. The hard work lies ahead,. To paraphrase Councilmember David Alvarez though, every person on the Dais ran to make a difference. This is making a difference. This is not just for his two children, but for all the children and for coming generations of San Diegans.

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