The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Wednesday, Jan. 27 to work in partnership with the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy towards creating a regional plan to get the county’s carbon emissions to zero by 2035, with a focus especially on the unincorporated areas of San Diego. The blueprint for the zero emissions plan is being developed by GPS’s Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative.
The SDGPI is a part of a national coalition of experts across the United States, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which came out with a Zero Carbon Action Plan in October 2020. The goal of the ZCAP is to transform the U.S. economy into a cleaner, climate conscientious system built around advanced technologies.
The ZCAP will enforce change in the categories of power, transportation, policy, buildings, jobs, materials, industries, and land use. SDGPI will resource ideas from its work on the ZCAP and from other sources to form its plan for San Diego. More specific details on the implementation of the program are expected in the following weeks.
This new partnership between San Diego County and UCSD has emerged due to the leadership of recently-elected San Diego officials, such as Supervisors Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson Remer. The plan is a break from past County Climate Action Plans that had been heavily criticized by environmental groups and struck down in the courts.
In 2012, San Diego adopted a Climate Action Plan with the goal of reaching a 17 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by diminishing the sprawl of development. The 2012 CAP was rejected in April 2013 by San Diego Judge Timothy Taylor in a lawsuit between the Sierra Club and the County.
Judge Taylor found that the CAP did not include any enforceable measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and its goals and measures were labeled as “recommendations” that violated the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970. This loss forced the county to pay $1 million to the Sierra Club in attorney’s fees. The county then appealed the ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeal but lost the case again.
In December 2018, a Superior Court Judge rejected San Diego County’s suggested Climate Action Plan because of its failure to comply with the county and the state’s goals for zero emissions. San Diego County was then subject to a lawsuit brought by several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Climate Action Campaign, around the topic of development in regards to the CAP.
“The core of the lawsuit was that the county kept trying to allow more sprawl (development) out in the back country and allow [developers] to use offsets anywhere in the world to mitigate for the increased vehicle miles traveled and GHG emissions,” said Founder of the Climate Action Campaign, Nicole Capretz, in an interview with The UCSD Guardian.” “So we fundamentally disagreed with that idea.”
In June of 2020, the 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled in favor of the environmental groups and threw out San Diego’s 2018 Climate Action Plan due to the leeway the plan gave to housing developers.
Acknowledging these past legal issues and its new leaders’ calls for climate action, San Diego County has decided to rebuild its Climate Action Plan and is working to create a Regional Climate Action Plan with UCSD. Capretz views the new partnership as a positive step in the direction of zeroing out carbon emissions.
“UCSD, truly, is like its own city. It’s like its own living, breathing institution, and it obviously has a lot of credibility,” Capretz said. “So, I think bringing UCSD into the fold is wise, and will add value. [The Climate Action Campaign is] fully supportive. We think this is great. It’s going to give a bigger picture. It’s going to put everything together.”
Information about UC San Diego’s Climate Action Plan can be found here. The partnership between San Diego County and UCSD on implementing the Regional Climate Action Plan is still underway.
Photo taken by Daniel Guerra for Unsplash