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Politics

State Mandates Carry San Diego Through 2020 Climate Goals

Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.
Associated Press
Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.
San Diego Reports Progress Towards Climate Action Plan Goals
San Diego Reports Progress Towards Climate Action Plan Goals GUEST: Andrew Bowen, reporter, KPBS News

Our top story meditation sending a Mayor Kevin Faulkner announced results from the first annual report on the city's climate action plan and the information compiled compares emission levels between 2010 and 2015. Andrea Bowen attended the update and he joins us now. What were the takeaways from the update quick What we heard from the mayor is the city is exceeding its greenhouse gas reduction goals using 2010 as the baseline for greenhouse gas emissions and that was the last time the admissions were measured. The city has reduced its emissions by 17%. The goal for 2020 was 50%. What we heard from the mayor is a city is ahead of schedule. This is not a big surprise. A lot of the admissions are coming from state mandates and things like fuel-efficient cars, renewable energy those were mandated by the Sacramento so the city does not get all the credit. I don't think the city is try to take all the credit. The mayor has acknowledged that we had very strong partners at the state level. One thing the city is doing is investing in water recycling. That will be a very long-term investment for adopting the climate change. Some of that work is meeting our goal of slashing admissions and half by 2035. Are we on track to do that quick It is way too soon to tell. It does appear on track to meeting the goals because of state mandates. Things are only going to get harder. This is been some of the low hanging fruit. Everybody's -- there's a lot of different components to the climate plan that will be more difficult. The decisions now that the city is making with how the city grows and how it develops and investments it makes in transportation infrastructure those decisions are going to determine whether we meet our goals 20 years from now and I spoke with Nicole because she is the director of the campaign and she wrote the action plan. Right now the deductions are going from changes that were made at the state level so we are benefiting from those actions. Now we need local leadership. What it means is actually changes the way that we grow and people around the city. So was there any mention of progress towards the goals of cutting the number of people who commute by car because that is an essential element of this plan. Transportation is the biggest emitter of greenhouse emissions. There was no mention of it. That is because there hasn't been any progress made in terms of actual measurable benefits. We still have the vast vast majority of people in San Diego commuting by car. No one expected the city to change that overnight. There are things that the decisions of the city is making right now they are the roadmap for how different neighborhoods are going to be developing and growing over the years and the idea is to concentrate more housing around public transit facilities or access to public transit so that people don't have to depend on the cars to get them to work and every single one of those plan updates has been measured for how effective there will be at getting people out of cars and every single one has failed to meet the city's goal of getting half of people in the city to commute without a car. So there is a lot of work to be done. Quick sourcing the city is not taking a lot of ambitious and difficult decisions right now in part because a lot of these decisions involve convincing people that you need to accept more density in your neighborhood and you need to maybe put less of a priority on parking, for example, and more of a priority of increasing access to public transit so people can have an option to get to work without a car. Permit any progress about the other corporate, the landfills or diverting garbage quick The city says in this report 62% of waste is being diverted from that that is going to recycling and large scale composting. The goal by 2020 is 75%. That is about a 13 percentage point change that needs to happen in the next three years and that is going to be very difficult. Did anyone ask the mayor about the possible impact of the truck presidency on meeting the city's climate action goals? I asked the mayor that a he said he did not want to speculate what the government is going to be funding or not funding over the next four years. We know that Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax. Don't think that we can expect a whole lot of leadership and investment in research or that we heard this morning report from David Wagner that a lot of scientists are worried about investments in research into climate science and also investments in things that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I think this really underscores the importance of local leadership because if we are not getting any help from the federal government San Diego might need to do on its own. I've been speaking with Andrea Bowen. Thank you. Thank you.

State Mandates Carry San Diego Through 2020 Climate Goals
San Diego has already met its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in the city's year-old Climate Action Plan. But most of the progress was due to state actions, and little progress has been made on the city's biggest source of emissions: transportation.

State mandates on fuel efficient vehicles and renewable energy allowed the city of San Diego to exceed its short-term goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released by the mayor's office Thursday.

The report is the first of what will become an annual monitoring effort. It measured the city's greenhouse gas emissions in calendar year 2015, finding overall emissions were 17 percent below the 2010 baseline year.

The city's Climate Action Plan, passed last December, expects a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The report attributed most of the progress to actions at the state level, and to improvements in data collection.

"We've made significant progress to create a cleaner San Diego, and we're just getting started," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "This is a long-range plan, and there are many steps that will need to be taken along the way."

The Climate Action Plan sets a legally binding target of a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The plan lays out a variety of strategies to achieve that goal, including switching to 100 percent renewable energy, reducing waste in landfills and getting half of all San Diegans living near public transit stops to commute to work without a car.

While the report found progress with renewable energy and waste diversion, things actually got worse for transportation. The distances people drove in cars and trucks has steadily increased year by year, and public transit ridership has been falling, largely because of cheap gas prices.

RELATED: San Diego Predicts Shortcomings In Climate Plan’s Transit Goals

Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said she was pleased to see the reductions, but that the city is not providing leadership in the areas of sustainable growth and mobility.

"We're benefiting from those actions that were done because of state leadership — but now we need local leadership," she said. "What local leadership means is that it actually changes the way we grow and changes the way we move people around the city. And unfortunately we just aren't seeing that yet."

Capretz added that the election of Donald Trump, who has denied the existence of climate change (he later said it was a joke), underscores the need for local governments to take the lead in acting on the threats posed by climate change.