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San Diego Supervisors Chart New Course For Climate Action Plan

People watching the high surf at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego County. Jan. 9, 2021.
Tarryn Mento
People watching the high surf at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego County. Jan. 9, 2021.

San Diego County is taking a new approach in its effort to develop a climate action plan that survives legal scrutiny.

The state legislature passed a number of laws and California governors have passed executive orders requiring municipalities to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their borders.

San Diego Supervisors Chart New Course For Climate Action Plan
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

Climate action plans are a key tool, but San Diego County has repeatedly produced plans that were challenged and rejected in the courts.

The political environment has changed, however.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, for the first time in decades, has a Democratic majority that is prepared to redefine the process of developing the GHG reduction blueprint.

“It must be comprehensive,” said Nathan Fletcher, the board chair and a member of the California Air Resources Board. “It must be legally enforceable and not rely on the purchase of carbon offsets to meet emission reduction targets. And it needs to use updated data on modeling. And it needs to emphasize environmental justice and equity.”

RELATED: San Diego County Still Working On Climate Action Plan

VIDEO: San Diego Supervisors Chart New Course For Climate Action Plan

The county has failed to produce a working plan after more than a decade of work.

The latest effort was thrown out this past summer because the plan offset carbon impacts from sprawl developments in the backcountry with the purchase of global carbon credits.

The judge called the plan dubious and unenforceable and state officials complained it did not help California meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

A local environmentalist told KPBS in November that homebuilders have to be part of the solution.

“Developers really need to take a look and see how they can offset all of these problems,” said Richard Miller, a leader of the Sierra Club’s San Diego Chapter.

RELATED: San Diego Coastal Marshes May Become Important Tools To Battle Climate Change

The Climate Action Campaign has long pushed for the county to develop a plan that works. The group wants to see the county push to eliminate fossil fuels in the transportation and energy sectors.

The campaign says a "net carbon zero plan," where carbon emissions are offset by environmentally friendly mitigation projects, falls short.

“That’s not enough,” said Noah Harris, of the Climate Action Campaign. “They need to reach out fully to committing to zero carbon, a zero-carbon climate action plan. So we’re excited to see the energy for sure but we want to keep pushing for them to be as bold as possible.”

The order from the supervisors will lay the groundwork for a new plan.

The county is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

It remains unclear how long it will take to develop the new plan.