San Diego is already using zero-emissions buses. Photo by Chris Stone

The county Board of Supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved a climate change proposal that proponents say will move the county toward zero carbon emissions by 2035.

San Diego is the largest county in the United States to commit to achieving such a goal by 203

Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas crafted the proposal, known as the Regional Sustainability Plan. Lawson-Remer called it “an unprecedented effort to tackle an unprecedented problem.”

County staff, including the chief administrative officer, will work with UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy to craft the plan, which Lawson-Remer’s office said “will incorporate strategies tailored to the region to achieve zero carbon in key sectors including energy, transportation, and land use.”

The supervisor said a zero-carbon policy will reduce the burden on working families and provide well-paying jobs, and thanked the hundreds of residents who called in to support the plan and the 1,500 who signed a petition in favor of it.

Vargas said low-income communities, especially ones of color, have been plagued with environmental damage due to the climate crisis.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said he supported efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, but he also said it was important to remember that the county must build 6,700 homes by 2028, in accordance with a mandate by the San Diego Association of Governments.

He agreed with Hannah Gbeh, Farm Bureau executive director, that farmers need to be part of any climate reduction process.

Desmond also said he was old enough to remember smog days, “and technology primarily cleaned up that problem.”

Supervisor Joel Anderson said it was important for the county to move forward, but it was necessary to reach out to the county’s 18 local governments for input. “That’s a lot of population,” Anderson said. “If we can include them, it would make more sense.”

Numerous members of environmental advocacy groups, along with an official with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s office, called in to voice their support for a carbon-reduction plan.

Karl Aldinger, conservation organizer of Sierra Club in San Diego, said the plan was “a noble and necessary effort, and we applaud it.”

He added that the plan should include full building decarbonization and be rooted in climate justice. What it shouldn’t include, Aldridge argued, is the use of nuclear power, natural gas, or carbon capture and storage.

Gbeh said farmers also have a role to play in solving the carbon crisis, adding that carbon sequestration banks — which use trees, grasses, and other plants to soak up carbon dioxide — can help the environment and also bolster local economies.

“Regardless of your voting location, all of our constituents need a farmer (at least) three times a day” for food supply, she said.

In a related action, supervisors also unanimously approved Lawson-Remer and Vargas as members of an advisory committee to strengthen the county’s climate action plan. The committee will report back to the Board of Supervisors in 90 days.

City News Service contributed to this article.