The City Council of San Diego unanimously voted in favor of an unprecedented Climate Action Plan on Dec. 15. The plan is a legally mandated commitment for the city’s government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half and replace its power sources with renewable energy by 2035.
In addition to reducing the city’s carbon footprint, the 74-page plan aims to create “green” jobs, remove air pollutants, purify local water sources and educate homebuyers on energy usage. If the government fails to implement the plan, local organizations and authorities have the right to take legal action against the City Council.
Craig Gustafson, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Director of Media Relations, told the UCSD Guardian that regional institutions are encouraged to align their environmental policies with those of the plan to help facilitate its success.
“Local universities — and any other public or private organization — can take many steps to help address climate change here in San Diego,” Gustafson said. “For example, they could adopt many of the same changes to policy or operations that City government plans to enact in the coming years as part of its Climate Action Plan.”
A.S. Assistant Vice President of Environmental Justice Affairs Moon Pankam expressed support for CAP and noted that the city is setting a precedent by enforcing environmental policies.
“San Diego is a major city with immense cultural, economic and natural significance; it’s one of the largest cities in the United States, and carries a lot of regional and national influence,” Pankam told the UCSD Guardian. “In a world increasingly affected by climate change, it’s imperative that San Diego adopts a firm stance on environmental issues and develops strategies for a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations to come.”
CAP will work in conjunction with California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. According to Pankam, UCSD already has its own climate action plan with a similar but more localized goal of achieving climate neutrality on campus by 2025.
“Like the City of San Diego’s plan, the UCSD [Climate Action Plan] is an extensive document with a detailed list of goals and strategies for greenhouse gas emission reduction, the establishment and encouragement of a culture of sustainability on campus, water reduction, recycling, energy use and waste minimization,” Pankam said. “As UCSD [has] a prominent presence in the area, its localized environmental policies and objectives can help the city of San Diego meet the goals laid out in its own Climate Action Plan.”
Gustafson explained that CAP specifically calls to increase the number of solar panels on city buildings and decrease energy consumption at these facilities by 15 percent by 2020 and an additional 25 percent by 2035. It also aims to augment the proportion of electric city vehicles to 50 percent by 2020 and 90 percent by 2035. Moreover, the plan will encourage the use of alternative modes of transportation in San Diego, such as bicycles, public transit and walking.
Students will be able to learn more about climate change and water conservation this quarter at workshops organized through the A.S. Office of Environmental Justice Affairs and at collaborative events alongside other student organizations on campus.
“A student body committed to sustainable practices and environmentalism can bring us one step closer to meeting the goals of UCSD’s and the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plans,” Pankam said.