October 26 – KPBS – Andrew Bowen reports – San Diego failed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to a new report on the city’s Climate Action Plan progress.
While San Diego’s carbon footprint was reduced in certain areas, such as electricity use and water use, increases in carbon emissions from the burning of natural gas by homes and businesses offset that progress and led to a statistical flatline. The city’s own conservation efforts also faltered last year, with its electricity and natural gas consumption going up by 3 percent.
The news was largely overshadowed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s announcement that he would pursue a community choice aggregation (CCA) program to help achieve the city’s 100 percent renewable energy goals. That announcement came on the same day as the release of the climate progress report, but Faulconer made no mention of the city’s emissions stalling at a press conference on Thursday.
Mayoral spokesman Craig Gustafson said in a statement that despite the stalling last year, San Diego was still on track to meet its 2020 goal of reducing emissions by 15 percent.
“When reporting annually on progress toward a long-term goal, there will be years where results plateau, but the most important thing is we are heading in the right direction for the long haul,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do and the mayor’s decision to move forward with community choice shows we’re not going to rest on our laurels.”
Sophie Wolfram, director of programs for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said advocates have known for a while that the city would manage to achieve its 2020 carbon-cutting goals, mostly thanks to state and federal actions such as renewable energy mandates imposed on utilities. She said the city has not made substantial progress on shifting people’s commute habits away from cars toward greener transportation modes like biking, walking and riding mass transit.
“It is alarming that we’re not seeing this huge shift in mobility that absolutely has to happen for us to hit the 2035 targets,” she said. The Climate Action Plan binds the city to cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2035.
A report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month painted a dire picture of global warming’s effect on human civilization. It predicted food shortages, more extreme weather events and massive population migration as parts of the world become uninhabitable — all by 2040 unless the world drastically reduces its burning of fossil fuels.
Wolfram said that UN report, and the city’s failure to reduce emissions last year, underscored the urgency of taking swift action to reduce carbon emissions.
“We know that we have basically a 10-year window to mobilize in a way we’ve never done in human history,” she said. “We need to replicate that mobilization on every level, including the local level in San Diego.”
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