“While we are winning some battles, we are losing the war against the climate crisis,” said Maleeka Marsden, the lead author of the CAC report card. “The path to a zero-carbon future will not be easy, but we will emerge on the other side with cleaner air, cleaner water, better health, and livable neighborhoods.”
The report card details how well 18 cities and the County of San Diego are implementing their climate solutions and moving toward carbon neutrality.
The CAC is a coalition of national climate, conservation and progressive groups, state and local partners, and key allies working to protect clean air and promote action to limit climate change.
Carbon neutrality, or having a net-zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon emissions altogether during the transition to a post-carbon economy.
Ways to reduce the carbon footprint include: minimizing auto-driving and using public transit or other alternatives; switching to renewable energy options (solar, wind, etc.); reducing energy use; taking energy-saving steps by converting to things like LED lightbulbs; and employing smart technologies, like programmable thermostats, that automatically control temperatures cutting down on energy waste.
This year, no city earned a “gold standard” on CAC’s annual report card. The cities of San Diego, Encinitas and La Mesa received silver awards. Solana Beach, Del Mar, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and Carlsbad received honorable mention getting bronze awards.
Discussing countywide carbon-cutting efforts, Marsden said, “The City of San Diego is leading the region in terms of climate action, with the goal being 100% clean energy. The City is doing really well in terms of moving toward Community Choice Energy, which allows residents to have a (less carbon) alternative. The goal is to have 100% clean energy in the City with lower rates by 2035. To do that, we really need to find a way to slash carbon emissions drastically.”
While San Diego County cities were progressing toward achieving 100% clean energy by CCE programs, the CAC’s report card showed these gains were overshadowed by the failure to reduce the largest source of regional emissions: transportation. Most cities are also continuing to struggle to make substantial progress on zero waste, planting more shade trees and achieving energy equity.
Noting San Diego’s adopted Climate Action Plan “has a very ambitious goal to get 50% of urban residents biking, walking or taking alternative transportation by 2035,” Marsen added, “We’re still really far behind in the math. It takes a long time to build infrastructure and to change people’s (transportation) habits. So it’s really important for the City to get started on that.”
Pointing out San Diego is now “the largest city in the nation to commit to 100% clean energy,” Marsden noted, “We still need to attain a safe and livable future. We need a path to get to zero carbon, and to get off of fossil fuels entirely by 2045.”
To meet state climate goals and local Climate Action Plans, cities must slash, by half, their carbon footprints by 2030, and the San Diego region must achieve zero carbon by 2045.