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San Diego updates climate action plan

An aerial view of buildings in Downtown San Diego, Calif. Oct. 2, 2020.
Matthew Bowler
An aerial view of buildings in Downtown San Diego, Oct. 2, 2020.

The city of San Diego took a step toward reclaiming its leadership on climate issues, by voting to pass a major update of its Climate Action Plan on Tuesday.

“The window to reverse the dangerous trends of climate change is rapidly closing, and this moment demands aggressive action,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria told the council.

The mayor presented the document to the city council to emphasize the city’s commitment to climate friendly policies.


“Implementing this more ambitious plan won’t be easy,” Gloria said. “But the financial cost and human consequences of inaction are almost unimaginable. We must act now.”

The council voted unanimously, with Chris Cate absent, to adopt the first major change in the plan since it was adopted in 2015.

“This climate action plan doesn’t just reduce emissions,” Gloria said. “It guides our collective efforts to build a better future for all San Diegans. This climate action plan is our strategy to create a city with more efficient buildings, healthier lifestyles, good paying green jobs, and more resilient communities.”

San Diego was the first major city in the country to pass a climate action plan, or CAP, seven years ago.

The city has been under fire from environmental groups in recent years, who complained that the initial plan was more aspirational than practical.


City officials say the new update contains 200 action items, up from about a dozen in the first plan.

The climate blueprint creates a framework to make San Diego more sustainable, more resilient and more livable. It also aims to make San Diego more walkable and more environmentally friendly.

“We’d have food and water security,” said city council president Sean Elo-Rivera. “We’d have abundant trees and plant life. We’d have clean air in every neighborhood.”

He said that is motivation enough to do everything possible to achieve those goals.

The CAP’s cornerstone is a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2035. The old plan called for a 50% greenhouse emission reduction in that same timeframe.

City officials say they listened to more than 4,000 residents over two years to help formulate an update.

“Doing all we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change is our obligation,” said Vivian Moreno, who represents District 8 on the council.

She called climate change the existential crisis of our time.

The city identified clean air as a priority and that is why the document focuses on actions that serve that goal.

The city will work toward electrifying the city’s vehicle fleet, along with efforts to increase walking, biking and transit inside the city’s core.

There is also a push to switch to renewable energy and city officials noted that the creation of a community power district in the past year gets the city closer to that goal.

The CAP includes tactics aimed at improving conditions in the city’s neighborhoods that suffer disproportionately from air pollution and other environmental factors.

“I commend the city’s leadership for ensuring its CAP addresses advancing sustainability while recognizing that environmental justice communities like Barrio Logan and San Ysidro need prioritization for funding and action,” said county Supervisor Nora Vargas, who is also the chair of the San Diego Air Pollution Control District.

The Environmental Health Coalition praised the plan’s clean air goals, but the group expressed concern that there was no dedicated funding to help under-resourced communities.

“These goals will be meaningless if the CAP doesn’t prioritize funding solutions for residents breathing the most dangerous air in the city, who are also the most vulnerable to climate change,” said Diane Takvorian, the executive director of the coalition.

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