October 25, 2017 – San Diego Union Tribune – Joshua Emerson Smith reports – San Diego continues to lower its greenhouse-gas emission thanks largely to California’s tough environmental rules, according to an annual monitoring report released Wednesday that tracks the progress of the city’s ambitious Climate Action Plan.
The city has pledged to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint by using 100 percent green energy within the next two decades and getting tens of thousands of people to ditch their car commute in favor of riding transit, bicycling and walking.
Specifically, the city has committed to slashing its greenhouse gases 15 percent below 2010 levels by 2020 and 50 percent below that benchmark by 2035. The goals are intended to mirror the state targets of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 40 percent below that by 2030.
The report released Wednesday found that in 2016 the city had already cut its emissions by 19 percent, a two percentage point improvement from the previous year. The report largely attributed that progress to the state’s strict vehicle-emissions standards and renewable energy requirements on utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer acknowledged the role that state standards have played in helping the city meet its short-term goal, while also highlighting local efforts to use renewable diesel and battery power to run municipal vehicles, such as construction equipment, trash trucks and street sweepers.
“I’m happy to report that we continue to be ahead of schedule,” Faulconer said at a news conference Wednesday. A number of businesses and environmental groups also attended to show their support, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Center for Sustainable Energy and Circulate San Diego.
The city’s first climate plan progress report released in November last year showed that the city had already met its 2020 emissions reduction goal before the plan was approved because of the statewide standards.
Faulconer said the city is making progress on a number of local fronts.
“One of the greatest contributing factors to our success so far has been improving fuel efficiency,” he said. “Yes, efficiency standards keep getting stronger, and we’ve also taken the initiative to make sure we’re replacing gas-guzzling city vehicles with newer more efficient vehicles that produce significantly less pollution or none at all.”
The city still faces several major challenges going forward to meet its long-term emissions target.
More than half of all emissions in the city come from transportation, and the city has called for commuters living within a half mile of a major transit stop dramatically change their habits.
“The city is moving the right direction but given the scope and scale of the climate crisis we need to act bolder if we’re going to cut our carbon footprint in half,” Nicole Capretz, executive director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign.
Of commuters in so-called transit priority areas, by 2020 the climate plan calls for 12 percent to ride transit, 3 percent to walk and 6 percent to bicycle.
The city has yet to provide data on the progress of this goal.
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