Major climate change plan goes before SD Council

Posted at 8:44 AM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-15 11:44:31-05
SAN DIEGO -- A long-awaited plan to address climate change in San Diego, which has garnered support from both environmental and business groups, will be considered for adoption by the City Council Tuesday.
The plan created by city staff over the past couple of years would, among other things, include the goal of reducing emission levels by 20 percent in 2020 and by half in 2035, using levels recorded in San Diego in 2010 as the baseline.
The proposal won unanimous backing by the council's Environment Committee. At the hearing, representatives from numerous environmental organizations spoke out in favor of the plan, as did organized labor, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Taxpayers Association.
Five strategic focus areas of the plan are:
-- energy and water efficient buildings, with the city providing a mix of regulatory mandates and incentives;
-- clean and renewable energy, with the city facilitating the installation of local renewable energy projects;
-- bicycling, walking and transit, in which land use decisions can promote alternative means of travel;
-- reducing waste, promoting recycling and capturing landfill gases; and
-- climate resiliency, to create programs and policies that will help city officials respond to potential impacts.
The document incorporates more specific goals -- some of which were adopted separately by the City Council -- such as generating 100 percent renewable electricity citywide by 2035, reducing energy consumption at municipal facilities by 15 percent by 2020 and an additional 25 percent by 2035, and diverting 75 percent of solid waste by 2020 and 90 percent by 2035.
A group called the Climate Action Campaign said San Diego would become the largest U.S. city to commit to producing all of its energy needs from renewable sources. The organization plans to hold a rally outside City Hall before the council takes up the issue.
Last week, San Diego Gas & Electric issued a statement that praised the plan because it "strikes a sensible balance between protecting our environment and our growing economy. We commend the city for its flexibility, and the importance the plan places on achieving the greatest carbon reductions at the least cost."
SDG&E said about one-third of the power it delivers comes from renewable sources.
Of the numerous ways cited in the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest projected short-term bang would take place at the Miramar Landfill, with the recycling of waste products and capturing of gases, to the tune of 154,467 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2020 and 344,213 by 2035.
The report also suggests that optimizing the use of mass transit would have a major impact, lowering carbon output by 119,234 metric tons by 2020 and by 213,573 metric tons by 2035.
Over a longer term, a method of procuring energy from alternative sources called "Community Choice Aggregation" could reduce emissions by 531,254 metric tons in 2030 and almost 1.6 million metric tons five years later.
Actions called for in the climate plan would require the City Council to approve separate implementation ordinances in the future. Before such votes are taken, the city would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of each proposed action. 
The plan's provisions, some of which would go before the council as early as next year, might also need to be modified over time as circumstances warrant, according to the document.