Councilmen David Alvarez (c) and Todd Gloria (l) at a news conference in support of climate change proposal being presented to to the San Diego City Council Environment Committee. Photo courtesy of the David Alvarez’s office

The city of San Diego’s long-awaited proposal to address climate change was given an initial go-ahead Monday by the City Council’s Environment Committee.

The plan created by city staff over the past couple of years would, among other things, include the goal of reducing emission levels by 20 percent in 2020 and by half in 2035, using levels recorded in San Diego in 2010 as the baseline.

After unanimous passage by the committee, the plan will next go before the full City Council next month for possible adoption.

Five strategic focus areas of the plan are:

  • energy and water efficient buildings, with the city providing a mix of regulatory mandates and incentives;
  • clean and renewable energy, with the city facilitating the installation of local renewable energy projects;
  • bicycling, walking and transit, in which land use decisions can promote alternative means of travel;
  • reducing waste, promoting recycling and capturing landfill gases; and
  • climate resiliency, to create programs and policies that will help city officials respond to potential impacts.

“There are various targets that are included, but broadly speaking, it’s renewable energy, mass transit as a way to get around in our city, an urban trees canopy so we have more trees planted in our city, and diverting solid waste from our landfills,” committee Chairman David Alvarez said at a news conference.

The document incorporates more specific goals — some of which were adopted separately by the City Council — such as generating 100 percent renewable electricity citywide by 2035, reducing energy consumption at municipal facilities by 15 percent by 2020 and an additional 25 percent by 2035, and diverting 75 percent of solid waste by 2020 and 90 percent by 2035.

Of the numerous ways cited in the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest projected short-term bang would take place at the Miramar Landfill, with the recycling of waste products and capturing of gases, to the tune of 154,467 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2020 and 344,213 by 2035.

The report also suggests that optimizing the use of mass transit would have a major impact, lowering carbon output by 119,234 metric tons by 2020 and by 213,573 metric tons by 2035.

Over a longer term, a method of procuring energy from alternative sources called “Community Choice Aggregation” could reduce emissions by 531,254 metric tons in 2030 and almost 1.6 million metric tons five years later.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald, as part of a motion approved by the committee, asked for the plan to be changed to bring CCA provisions forward from a second phase of implementation to the first. She said CCA was the “key to the change we all say we want.”

The committee also asked staff to bring to the City Council a proposal for implementing and funding the climate plan by April 1, create a checklist that can be used for consistency as community zoning and design plans are updated, add more clarity about how the plan will impact disadvantaged neighborhoods, and establish a framework for a working group to implement and oversee implementation of the plan.

“With today’s action, the city of San Diego is one step closer to ensuring America’s Finest City becomes America’s cleanest city as we work together to reduce pollution and create the green jobs of the future,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “The bipartisan support shown in today’s committee vote, combined with the support from local business and environmental groups, underscores that leaving a better San Diego to our children is something we can all get behind.”

Representatives from numerous environmental organizations spoke out in favor of the plan, as did organized labor and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Taxpayers Association.

“I think what we have is some pretty strong consensus that’s been forged over many years,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who got the ball rolling on the plan when he served as interim mayor two years ago. “While this may have taken longer than perhaps anyone would have cared for, I think the result is that we have a large portion of this community is in support of this plan, which is a good thing.”

Actions called for in the climate plan would require the City Council to approve separate implementation ordinances in the future. Before such votes are taken, the city would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of each proposed action.

The plan’s provisions, some of which would go before the council as early as next year, might also need to be modified over time as circumstances warrant, according to the document.

— City News Service

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