February 20, 2019 – SDUT – Joshua Emerson Smith – Environmental activists blasted cities on Wednesday for not following through on pledges to rein in greenhouse gases — calling on elected officials, advocacy groups and business leaders to collaborate on a Green New Deal specifically for the San Diego region.
An annual report card released Wednesday from the local nonprofit Climate Action Campaign found municipalities are stumbling, specifically when it comes to getting people out of their cars and onto cleaner forms of transportation.
“The report shows that climate is still not a top priority for cities,” Maleeka Marsden, an organizer with the group and co-author of the report, told supporters at a rally in City Heights on Wednesday.
“Cities are behind schedule on their goals and failing to make biking, walking and transit viable options for efficient and affordable connections to jobs and housing,” she added.
The report also found that many cities are not monitoring progress on climate targets. The city of San Diego, for example, has called for thousands of commuters to ditch their car commuters in favor of transit, but still doesn’t track how people get to work.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office pushed back on the notion that the region needs its own Green New Deal and defended its progress and cutting climate emissions.
“We’re open to discussing new ideas and new approaches, but the city already has a blueprint for fighting climate change,” Faulconer’s spokesman Craig Gustafson said in an email. “Our focus remains being the regional leader on environmental protection through implementation of the Mayor’s landmark Climate Action Plan.”
The report card, which graded cities on a 100-point scale, gave the city of San Diego and Encinitas the highest scores of 81 points each. Solana Beach was ranked third with La Mesa, Del Mar, Carlsbad and Chula Vista trailing.
Groups in attendance — including the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sunrise Movement and SanDiego350 — voiced support for drafting a regional blueprint to address climate change.
The idea of making broad investments in renewable energy and transit to create green jobs also appealed to Rick Bates, spokesman for United Here Local 30, which represents hotel workers and others.
“Our workers are largely low-wage workers, and they live in communities that are directly impacted by climate change,” he said at the rally. “We see this as a long-range goal that we need to meet.”
The influential San Diego-based Environmental Health Coalition said it had yet to take a position on the idea of a local Green New Deal.
While details were scant, officials with Climate Action Campaign said such a campaign would require a broad coalition and potentially a major tax increase.
“That’s a subject we need to explore seriously,” said Nicole Capretz, the group’s executive director. “What kinds of resources are we going to need to invest into our communities to create the world-class city we want and deserve?”
The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council has come out in support of the nationally proposed Green New Deal. Head of the labor council Keith Maddox said that for his group to support a parallel effort in San Diego, the plan would need to include a commitment to workforce education and fair wages, among other issues.
“We must recognize the monumental impact doing so will have on workers in virtually every industry from defense and shipbuilding to manufacturing to tourism,” he said. “It is critical that workers and jobs be at the heart of any Green New Deal.”
At the same time, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce said it was open to exploring the idea.
“The Chamber is always looking for cost-effective ways … to support a greener, more inclusive and more productive economy,” Sean Karafin, vice president of policy and economic research with the Chamber, said in an email. “We look forward to learning more about what they have in mind.”
While much of the report focused on the shortcomings of climate plans, it also praised the region for recent efforts to dramatically expand the use of renewable energy.
The report lauded officials for considering the adoption of a government-run program called community choice aggregation, which gives elected officials the authority to purchase electricity. Traditionally, investor-owned utilities have controlled that process, inking deals with power providers, from natural gas plants to solar installation and wind farms.
A number of cities, including San Diego, Encinitas, Del Mar, Oceanside and Carlsbad, are now considering using community choice to form a joint-powers authority to purchase electricity collectively.
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