Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

San Diego County stepping up climate action in October

San Diego County will address climate change next week with a report on its climate protection plan and a draft ambitious statewide sustainability roadmap expected later this month.

After years of battling lawsuits against its old climate protection plan, the county voted in July to create a new plan that will more vigorously address greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation in the unincorporated areas.

The county board will hear an update on this plan at its regular meeting on October 20.

With its so-called “decarbonisation framework”, the board is going a step beyond the climate protection plan, which will be coordinated with cities, school districts and other authorities throughout the district in order to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2035. The draft of this framework will appear at the end of October.

In the summer after the previous climate plans were abandoned, regulators instructed the county’s staff to develop a new climate protection plan that is legally enforceable and does not use carbon offsetting credits – one that allows developers to pay for the release of excessive climate pollutants instead reduce them.

The county’s new plan must set clear goals and measurable steps to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2035, regulators said.

At a virtual meeting in August, the county’s planners held a brainstorming session to come up with ideas to encourage people and businesses to reduce car trips and other sources of vehicle emissions.

“What if your community was developed in such a way that you could get to your destination on foot, by bike or by roller?” Asked the planner Claire Moss the participants.

Speakers suggested a variety of options, including building better infrastructure for bicycles and electric vehicles, encouraging carpooling, and introducing more frequent and reliable public transport. The county could also reduce emissions by promoting teleworking with flexible working hours and improved internet connectivity, the speakers said.

To reverse the rise in atmospheric carbon, participants called for urban forestry to be stepped up, more parks built, and natural wildlife to be preserved.

District officials said they will combine these concepts with traffic modeling data from the San Diego Association of Governments’ new regional map. SANDAG is expected to adopt its new regional plan at its December meeting, according to the district’s climate plan website.

This enables district officials to accurately calculate vehicle kilometers traveled in non-integrated areas – a key measure of traffic impact that is used as a proxy for estimating greenhouse gas emissions. And they can quantify the potential effects of various climate protection strategies.

According to the climate protection website, the district will collect data on greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this year. The district will set reduction targets in 2022.

In 2023, officials will publish a draft climate change plan and then hold further public hearings before adopting the final plan.

In a separate but related effort, the county is working with cities, school districts, and academic experts to develop a regional sustainability effort that extends to all cities in San Diego, as well as the unincorporated area.

District officials develop the plan under the direction of UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy and the University of San Diego’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center.

The climate protection plan will only focus on the unincorporated regions, while the decarbonization framework or sustainability plan will take a broader, region-wide approach, said Murtaza Baxamusa, the county’s program manager for regional sustainability.

“It will focus on total carbon emissions,” he said. “That has never happened before for a district region.”

The team will publish a draft report in late October and submit technical reports to the board in November, Baxamusa said. They hope to be able to present policy measures to the board by 2022.

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