San Diego Climate Report Shows Progress — Thanks To Whom?

San Diego remains ahead of schedule in meeting the goals of its landmark Climate Action Plan, according to a progress report released by city officials Wednesday.

The annual report found greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 were about two percent lower than 2015, and 19 percent lower than the climate plan’s baseline year of 2010. Mayor Kevin Faulconer praised San Diegans for their efforts to conserve water and energy, and for leading the nation in the installation of rooftop solar panels.

“This is steady progress that shows the actions that we are taking collectively as a city are making a difference,” he said at a news conference announcing the report.

The report attributed most of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to state and federal programs — something that was true for last year’s progress report as well. Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said there is more officials could be doing to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

“We’re grateful that the mayor has taken some steps in the right direction,” Capretz said. “But given the scope and scale of the climate crisis, and what kind of future we are confronting, we need bolder, quicker action.”

San Diego is facing several major decisions in the coming months and years that could pave the way for the climate plan’s success or failure. One is the decision on whether to adopt community choice aggregation (CCA), a program that would allow city officials to choose where San Diegans get their energy.

A peer-reviewed study released this summer found a CCA program could offer cheaper and greener electricity than SDG&E. The City Council is scheduled to decide whether to move forward with community choice in January.

Another factor that could influence the city’s climate action success is the development of the 2019 Regional Transportation Plan. The plan, crafted by the San Diego Association of Governments, determines how much the county will invest in low-carbon transportation options like public transit and bicycling versus car-focused infrastructure like freeways and roads.

Transportation, which accounts for 54 percent of San Diego’s greenhouse gas emissions, is one area where the city faces extreme challenges in reducing its carbon footprint.

The climate plan envisions half of all San Diegans who live in so-called “transit priority areas” getting to work via biking, walking or riding public transit by 2035. But transit ridership has been on the decline for the past two years, and city officials have no good data on how many commuters are biking or walking to work.

The challenges San Diego faces in reducing car dependence were in plain sight at the city operations yard where the mayor held his press conference: The employee parking lot was full of cars.

Cars fill a city employee parking lot at the Chollas Operations Yard, Oct. 25, 2017. (PHOTO BY KRIS ARCIAGA/KPBS)

San Diego Climate Report Shows Progress — Thanks To Whom?, by Andrew Bowen, KPBS, October 25, 2017.

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