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Study: San Diego City's climate policy could create 60 to 90 jobs per year

The San Diego skyline is pictured in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego skyline is pictured in this undated photo.

City Mayor Todd Gloria's office Friday released a study of building decarbonization policies, as a way to gauge impacts on the San Diego workforce via an ongoing clean-energy transition.

According to a news release from Gloria's office, the Jobs Impact Analysis also spotlights job creation potential from planned municipal energy retrofits and "lays the groundwork for continued partnerships with labor around targeted programs, policies and investments that can help ensure all workers benefit from the clean energy transition."

The study found that anticipated municipal clean-energy projects have the potential to create an average of 60 to 90 new jobs per year over the next 13 years.

Gloria's office said the study is intended to help the city and its partners plan for the potential workforce needs and job impacts of building decarbonization policies.

"We understand that a highly skilled and well-compensated workforce is necessary to decarbonize our built environment and electrify our transportation sector," Gloria said. "That's why we're proactively analyzing the impacts of our emissions-reduction efforts on working San Diegans.

"We've been working hand in hand with local trade unions to build knowledge and partnerships before we ramp up our building-decarbonization efforts to ensure that our clean energy future is truly for all of us," he added.

City staff worked with consultants and trade union representatives to develop the study, which includes recent state energy code updates, potential local code changes that surpass state requirements and the city's upcoming municipal energy retrofit work.

City officials worked with The Building Electrification Institute and Inclusive Economics to assess near-term and direct impacts of those specific policies on jobs related to gas infrastructure, utilities and other construction trades in San Diego.

The study team worked with key labor partners on data collection, reviewing assumptions and methodology and key questions raised by the research.

BEI Director Jenna Tatum said that when local policymakers and the labor community "engage early and collaborate on policies to address climate change, good things can happen."

"We have seen this first-hand in San Diego, where forward-thinking labor leaders and city staff have demonstrated a solutions-oriented approach that will chart the path toward building decarbonization while also lifting up local workers," Tatum said.

The discussion over job decarbonization isn't easy, said Nate Fairman, an official with IBEW Local Union 465, which represents 2,900 electrical utility workers in San Diego and Imperial counties.

"Not every environmentalist is prioritizing labor protections and worker justice, and not every labor advocate is prioritizing necessary and immediate action to mitigate a catastrophic climate disaster," he added. Fairman said he applauded the city and Gloria "for being proactive and having the courage to bring all the stakeholders together to ensure that no worker is left behind as we work to address climate change."

As part of its climate action plan, the city has proposed to upgrade all municipal facilities to achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2035, and have a building code that matches state requirements to shift new construction away from fossil fuel use, and increase electric vehicle charging at new residential and commercial buildings.

In conjunction, the city's municipal energy strategy "has committed to work with labor and workforce partners to leverage their municipal retrofits to provide on-the-job training for local trainees in new clean-energy technology and equipment, extending the benefits of these retrofits beyond the projects themselves," Gloria's office said.

According to Gloria's office, requiring electrification in most new construction could result in 60 to 65 fewer jobs annually, primarily tied to gas pipe installation and other infrastructure work in residential developments in San Diego.

In turn, city officials will look for opportunities and policies to transition their skills to clean technologies, Gloria's office said.

The Jobs Impact Analysis can be found on the city's website, sandiego.gov.