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County Supervisors Rescind Climate Plan, Will Move Forward With New One

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The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind the Climate Action Plan it adopted in February 2018 and move forward in creating a replacement.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The County dumped its plan to address climate change again, and is fashioning a new one. The action comes after court struck down three versions of the county's climate plan, six times in the last decade. Here's how County supervisor, Diane, Jacob put it.

Speaker 2: 00:13 I just hope we get it right this time. Way too much money spend spent way too much time has been wasted. So let's get it right this time

Speaker 1: 00:23 For, to explain the details as KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Hi Eric. I'm Mark. Well, first, uh, what about the plan? Was the County sued over and what did the court eventually rule? Well, the County was sued because a environmentalist and even the state of California decided that the plan that the County had put forward, the third plan that they had developed in fact, uh, was not adequate. It was not up to task. It did not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It did not account for a smart growth strategy. And, uh, one of the more controversial items in that plan was this idea of carbon credits. So in other words, if there was development in the County that created greenhouse gas emissions, say a housing development in the back country where people have to drive to get to work, for example, uh, that creates greenhouse gas emissions and what the County wanted to do to kind of balance that, to set that off is to buy carbon credits basically by permission to pollute in the future.

Speaker 1: 01:24 So they would be able to, to balance the scales if you will. And, uh, what the courts found was that, that that was not an acceptable plan. The county's plan would allow them to buy carbon credits anywhere in the world. And the court said that you just can't check up on whether or not the greenhouse gas emissions are being, uh, balanced in, in that kind of an idea. And, and so the court said, look, you can't do this. This is not an acceptable rule. You have to start over and try again. And I think that's where the County is now. So you buy some, a buy into some project or, or give some money to something that supposedly helps the climate in say, Brazil. And that's mitigates your problem here is that that's the idea. Yeah, that's the idea that they were working with and what local environmentalists were saying is, look, why can't you, why don't you, uh, if you have a project that creates greenhouse gas emissions, why don't you have a, what they call mitigation here in the County?

Speaker 1: 02:18 So if you're creating all these extra miles traveled, that's creating greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe you support a project that bolsters a wetland somewhere in the County that, you know, absorbs and stores that are, maybe you support a project that, that bolsters a forest that can absorb carbon and, and sort of balance the scales if you will. And that's not what the County did at all. They said, look, we can offset these effects anywhere in the world, as you said, in a rainforest or Brazil or somewhere in the Congo. And the judge in the case said, look, that's just this just, just as, too hard to check up on. There's no way to tell whether the carbon credits that you're buying somewhere around the world are going to have an impact. And in the meantime, California still has this increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And that runs counter to a couple of laws that are on the books in the state of California that require the state to roll back the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are put into the atmosphere.

Speaker 3: 03:19 Now, you spoke a bit about this, but tell me more about what the county's climate plan controls. Sure. It's supposed to be,

Speaker 1: 03:25 We'll do a couple of things. Uh, under state law, it's supposed to lay out how they're going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's supposed to lay out how future development will take greenhouse gas emissions as part of the plan to reduce them. And then it's supposed to evaluate and quantify, uh, where the potential climate impacts will be as development occurs. Um, and the County really, uh, in its first three efforts to put together a County plan, you know, you know, over the last decade they've been, uh, all three of those plans have been rejected and the courts have said, uh, no, pretty strongly to this last one as well. And the County really hasn't come up a way to manage the smart growth or the development, the county's general plan accounts for smart growth. It asks for new developments to occur near existing services. But the County board of supervisors has consistently approved these developments that are away from County services in the back country that create many more greenhouse gas emissions than a, a smart growth plan.

Speaker 3: 04:31 And transportation is such a key element in all of this. They say that

Speaker 1: 04:35 Transportation is responsible for up to 40 to 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions that the state creates. Uh, you may remember the state decided back in 2006 with AB, uh, 32, that it was going to try and really reduce sharply the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that state municipalities are responsible for. And that's what kind of kickstarted these, this, uh, demand for climate action plans. And then, you know, the state followed up with legislation, uh, later that said, look, we have to reach these certain levels of greenhouse gas emissions on this tighter timeline. Uh, and that's where these climate action plans are really supposed to address the issue. They want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, uh, by 2035. They want to reduce them even further by 2050. And if there is no plan in place, or if planning doesn't account for these greenhouse gas emissions, then it's hard for the state to reach that goal. And I think that's why you saw the state of California filed the Amicus brief, uh, against the San Diego County plan in this latest round of litigation.

Speaker 3: 05:43 Yeah. The city of San Diego is a plan of the state as a plan County plans to come. What's the practical impact of all these various plans on the activities of businesses, governments, all of us individually.

Speaker 1: 05:53 Well, I think the impact varies depending on the, but the overall impact is to soften the state's carbon footprint so that, uh, we don't put so much carbon into the atmosphere, uh, and that reduces the impact of climate change as we move forward. So, uh, I think that cumulatively, uh, when everyone is on board with a working plan, uh, the idea is that we'll allow the state to take steps on the path toward reducing their carbon footprint. I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Thanks, Eric. My pleasure.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.