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Local Activists Say San Diego Isn't Moving Fast Enough On Climate Change

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Local climate activists are questioning whether or not the region is doing the work necessary to achieve its climate action goals and play its part in stopping a climate disaster.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego is one of the leaders in the state and the nation and confronting the threat of climate change. The city's climate action plan is a model for other cities. And this year, the County is developing a plan to move the region totally away from fossil fuels, but are we actually doing the work necessary to achieve these goals and stop a climate disaster? Nicole Capra it's founder of San Diego's climate action campaign says no she's warning that a faster pace and more commitment is needed as the dangers of climate change increase. Nicole Cafritz joins me now and welcome Nicole.

Speaker 2: 00:37 Thank you. Nice to be here. No, you recently,

Speaker 1: 00:40 Lee wrote this warning in an op-ed in the union Tribune. Why, what do you see happening that moved you to write this piece?

Speaker 2: 00:47 Yeah, a couple of things. One is just our analysis based on our watchdog work at the local and regional level in San Diego County. And we do this annual report card that evaluates, Hey, how are cities doing? Not only in developing climate action plans, but as importantly implementing them. And what we have found consistently is that our cities and the County are just falling behind. There's just no coordination. They don't have the resources and it just doesn't have the political will necessary to actually get these plans, um, implemented in a way that's really going to make that change. We need to see at the same time, this new report comes out from a host of climate experts throughout California, sort of, you know, sounding the alarm saying what they're seeing based on the data is that the climate crisis is accelerating so fast that we are not up to match the pace and scale of this change. And so they call for the, uh, state of California to double down to basically, you know, sort of throw out the old goals where we were saying, Hey, we're going to be carbon neutral by 2045. And they said, you need to be carbon neutral by 2030, which is a pretty dramatic shift in the timeline.

Speaker 1: 02:07 Go back to that report card that you mentioned, the climate action issues each year. You say each city in San Diego is falling behind. Can you give us more on that? How are they falling behind?

Speaker 2: 02:18 Yeah, I mean, the climate crisis impacts everything about, uh, city operations. It affects right how we grow, how we move people around how we power our future. And so it's a very holistic analysis. And so we are making some, some pretty decent strides on, um, cleaning our grid as they say, which means getting renewable electricity to power our lives. Unfortunately, when you look at transportation, we've made almost zero progress. Unfortunately we have not provided alternatives, biking, walking, transit that make it viable for people not to drive their car to work. And so, you know, setting aside the COVID last year and kind of how that, um, messed with, um, traditional practices, what we see is that people are getting right back on the road and in their car, because again, we have not, um, put in the infrastructure necessary so that people feel like they don't have to drive to work.

Speaker 2: 03:14 And so there's the transportation component. There's the zero waste component. There's the, you know, adaptation side, which is like, how are we going to cool down our cities? How are we going to make sure that communities of concern like that? We have some equity solutions in place because we all know that the people just like we saw in COVID the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate emergency are going to be those people, lower income communities of color. And so we are kind of seeing that we are not, you know, um, really doing what we need to do to make sure that we're going to be climate safe and climate ready. And those are some of the details. And then one final issue I'll mention is that we continue unfortunately to resist the need, to build compact mixed use housing in our urban centers. There's still this resistance, this kind of attachment to the old school. Like we just grow out, we just go into the back country and we just pave over, um, natural lands. But as we're learning because of the heat waves and, uh, intensity of the fire threats that that's just not possible. And yet there's still a huge push to just do things the traditional way when we really have to completely, re-imagine how we're going to grow and develop.

Speaker 1: 04:31 I want to hone in on that a little bit because the changes that the city and the state are trying to make, uh, when it comes to climate change, like increasing housing density, as you mentioned, getting people out of their cars to choose biking or public transportation, they continually face a backlash, and it's not only from business, but it's from people, neighborhood residents who like the way things are now and they don't want to have these changes. So how do you build a grassroots commitment toward change?

Speaker 2: 04:59 So what we have been doing, we started a coalition of about 54, um, diverse broad-based organizations and businesses, and, um, labor organizations called the San Diego green new deal Alliance. And the intention is exactly, as you stated, like how can we PIL the grassroots support for doing things differently? Because yes, we all, you know, humans, we resist change. That's kind of our default state, but obviously the atmosphere is changing despite our desire to keep things the same. And so we have to change with it. We have to adapt, we have to get ready and yes, we have to tackle some uncomfortable conversations on so many levels, by the way. And that's what we're seeing nationwide. It's not just in terms of the climate crisis, but obviously economic inequality, racial injustice, but all these things are connected because they all require change. And so the green new deal Lance is really, you know, the moniker is climate jobs and justice, and so meant to be intersectional.

Speaker 2: 05:58 It's meant to, you know, really build that multi-sector multiracial coalition from all corners of our San Diego region. So that again, the elected officials feel like they have the support to be bold and brave in a way they never have before. I mean, we're still gonna push them regardless to use that bully pulpit that they have. And so we still feel that as we continue to build this grassroots movement, they are sort of, you know, using their platform to talk to the community, honestly have the hard conversations, let's go deep into the communities and explain to people what the science says and how their lives are going to be appended and why best we have to get ahead of the curve. And the final comment is that when we do polling and it's not climate action campaign, who does polling, but, you know, elected officials always do polling to decide like, where, what is the public thinking about different issues? Climate is always at the top near the top. And so we know there's like some growing grassroots support for bold action. And we've just, you know, it's that magic elixir of getting just enough Greg's grassroots support. Plus making the elected officials believe they can go outside their comfort zone. And again, have these serious real conversations about how they're going to have to push policies and programs and solutions that are different than we've ever done before.

Speaker 1: 07:19 And I've been speaking with Nicole Capra, she's the founder of San Diego's climate action campaign. Nicole, thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 07:27 Thank you.

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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.