When CAC was founded in January 2015, the city of San Diego had a new Republican Mayor sitting with a proposed 100% clean energy Climate Action Plan (CAP) on his desk. It was up to him to uphold this plan or dilute the plan to appease some of his supporters. There was also a bipartisan City Council that would need to take a vote on the plan.
The author of the draft Climate Action Plan was CAC’s founder and Executive Director, Nicole Capretz, who developed the plan while working for then-Mayor Todd Gloria. Nicole knew that to ensure the CAP became law, a diverse, bipartisan and broad-based coalition would have to endorse it. Building this coalition was a core reason CAC was founded.
Our small staff quickly jumped into gear—organizing, inspiring, and engaging grassroots leaders citywide and a diverse and non-traditional coalition of elected representatives, businesses, labor unions, community planning groups, and environmental and social justice organizations. We built bridges across silos and brought together Democrats and Republicans, disengaged citizens and climate warriors, and low-income people of color with people of privilege. We effectively engaged the press and social media to build awareness, momentum, and popular support.
Eventually, we developed a critical mass of engaged community members who recognize that we need a world with 100% clean energy for all—where all communities have clean, healthy places to live, work, and play; all receive a fair share of the economic, environmental, health, and social benefits of a clean energy future; and where we decentralize power and put control back in the hands of local communities.
On December 15, 2015 an entire city was inspired by the unprecedented level of unity, when an overflow crowd watched the San Diego City Council vote unanimously to slash carbon emissions in half with the first legally binding Climate Action Plan in a major U.S. city. It was a true, and all too rare, moment of broadly shared civic pride. San Diego is now the largest U.S. city with a commitment to 100% clean energy. The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, with its commitments to social equity, jobs, and clean energy, is now a national model for climate action. In the process, we helped shift San Diego’s reputation from a good place for a taco and a tan to a model of bold commitment to change where environmentalists, clean tech entrepreneurs, social justice advocates, and government officials turn for leadership and inspiration. Climate Action Campaign is nationally recognized for playing a leading role, and our Executive Director, Nicole Capretz, was recognized by the New York Times as one of the top 10 Californian’s of 2016, alongside Governor Jerry Brown, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Senators Kamala Harris and Barbara Boxer.
We can and must do much more. Cities produce 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and are the prime testing grounds for climate fixes. After leading the City of San Diego’s groundbreaking Climate Action Plan, we successfully advocated and incubated the adoption of Del Mar’s 100% clean energy Climate Action Plan. Now we are engaged with thirteen other municipalities in San Diego and Orange Counties to develop and pass similarly transformative plans. We further target state policy to create a consistent set of rules in every municipality and accelerate change. In all our work, we use the same model we used in the city of San Diego—we work to connect business, community and government in support of the policies and programs that will lead to wholesale change.
It is our ultimate objective to innovate and demonstrate how 100% clean energy can be achieved locally with a commitment to equity, justice and jobs, and lead to scaling and replication worldwide.