October 1, 2014 (San Diego) – San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has responded to calls from the City Council and more than a thousand climate march activists locally by releasing a comprehensive Climate Action Plan. The plan calls for cutting the city’s carbon emissions 15% by 2020 and nearly in half --49%-- by 2035. The city also aspires to produce 100% of its power from renewable resources by 2035.
Council President Todd Gloria, a Democrat who proposed a similar climate change plan when he was interim mayor last year, praised the Republican Mayor’s action. Gloria says Faulconer’s plan “comprehensively addresses the major environmental challenges of our day,” adding, “I’d say about 97 percent of what I proposed is still in there, and the parts that aren’t are offset by other ways of reducing greenhouse gases.”
At a press conference that showed off solar panels atop a city water treatment plant, Mayor Faulconer announced, “I truly believe we have an opportunity to make San Diego one of the green energy and solar capitals of the world. This is a plan for creating economic opportunity for every San Diego family and community.”
In addition to helping address the climate change problem by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of incentives and new regulations, the plan also aims to create green jobs for San Diegans.
The plan includes transportation elements such as increasing mass transit, improving bicycle corridors and encouraging electric vehicle use. The city would lead by example; half the city’s own fleet of vehicles would be converted to electric by 2020 and 90% by 2035. San Diego will also convert all city trash trucks to natural gas by 2035. New construction will be required to include electric vehicle charging stations and be wired for solar power.
Faulconer’s ambitious plan also calls for retrofitting of older buildings, planting numerous trees and adding more solar and other renewable power sources. It also calls for increased density in some neighborhoods, using a “City of Villages” approach to encourage residents to walk, ride bikes, or use public transit. Adding traffic roundabouts and changing timing of stoplights are further expected to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
UT San Diego reports that both business and environmental groups have praised the plan as ambitious yet realistic and achievable.
One key difference between Gloria’s and Faulconer’s plan is that Faulconer eliminated a controversial requirement that would have required property owners to make their homes and commercial buildings more energy and water efficient before selling the properties. The revised plan requires that sellers disclose energy and water use instead, and disclose potential savings if new owners choose to invest in energy efficient improvements.
The plan’s drop in carbon emissions will be legally binding on the city as part of its effort to meet state-mandated reductions by 2050.
San Diego is home to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which has been at the forefront of climate change science in 1958, when Charles Keeling began taking measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As a coastal community, San Diego would be severely impacted by rising ocean levels from melting polar ice, as well as drought and wildfires linked to climate change, climate scientists locally have warned. Worldwide, 98% of climate scientists now agree that climate change is real, serious, and caused or worsened by human activities.
Gloria emphasized that communities can’t wait for the federal government to take action. He concludes, “We must take meaningful action here.”