Nicole Capretz and Climate Action Campaign supporters discuss their take on the state of the region's climate change response
The City of San Diego's adopted climate action plan is a great start, but there's much more work to be done throughout the county, according to a regional report card issued Wednesday (December 7) by the Climate Action Campaign, a local environmental watchdog group.
"In the face of a new president who is promising to dismantle federal progress on climate and clean energy, leadership from local governments is more important than ever," said spokesperson Nicole Capretz, who offered the report as a "tool to let the public know what their city is doing, or not doing, to protect the future of our kids and families."
Of the region's 19 municipalities, including 18 cities and the county, only 7 were included on the group's first report card; 2 more are in the process of revamping outdated climate plans, while 4 cities and the county are in the process of developing plans. Five cities, including Coronado, El Cajon, Imperial Beach, Poway, and Santee, do not have any outlined climate strategies either in place or under development.
"In order to meet our state's climate targets and reduce our carbon footprint by half by 2030, we need every city in San Diego to step up and commit to 100 percent clean energy," Capretz continued. "Of the seven climate action plans that we graded, only four meet the state's 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target. When you look at it, less than half of the cities in our region have taken any meaningful action on climate."
In grading plans, the group looked at metrics such as a focus on achieving 100 percent power generation from renewable sources; a goal of 50 percent low-impact transportation including mass transit, walking, and cycling in urban cores; a 35 percent tree-cover canopy to sequester carbon and combat the effect of "heat islands"; a goal of zero waste sent to landfills; and a focus on equitable distribution of resources, focusing first on low-income communities that bear the brunt of pollution and environmental decay.
"Communities that are in the front line, that have been neglected by government, deserve change for a community that is healthy. This is why equity is important to communities like the one here in Barrio Logan," said San Diego city councilmember-elect Georgette Gomez, whose 9th district also includes impacted areas such as City Heights. "It's wrong to have data that our children in communities like Barrio Logan and City Heights have a higher incidence of emergency-room visits due to asthma, that they're ten times more likely to be hit by cars. That is not the infrastructure these families deserve."
Implementing environmentally friendly paths of action, the group insisted, isn't necessarily a financial detriment to the region.
"The beautiful part about the climate crisis is that we can actually have a thriving, prosperous community as a result of the transfer from dirty energy to a clean energy economy," opined Capretz.
"Fossil fuels are outdated, they're a way of the past. In San Diego, we have a thriving solar industry that removes our need for fossil fuels," added Daniel Sullivan, founder of the locally based Sullivan Solar Power. "Right now, the solar industry is responsible for $1 billion in economic activity in our region. We have the technology, we have the people, we have the expertise. What we need now is continued and greater political will to support the movement."
The group cautioned that simply having a climate action plan in place, no matter how good, isn't enough. San Diego received the lone "gold" rating from the group, while Carlsbad, Del Mar, and San Marcos were labeled "bronze"; National City got a "participation acknowledgement" mark and Escondido and Vista received a "needs improvement" rating
"Our report card doesn't include two key elements; one is implementation," Capretz continued. "We know that plans are only as good as how well they're implemented and enforced, and we've already had challenges with the City of San Diego's implementation of their climate plan."