A bicyclist in North Park on Dec. 20, 2022.
A bicyclist in North Park on Dec. 20, 2022. / Photo by Gabriel Schneider for Voice of San Diego

Even if humans abruptly stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the warming effect of the emissions already created would linger for centuries. 

And climate advocates don’t trust that the city of San Diego will stop emitting in a meaningful way any time soon. The Mayor’s Office promised to put a timeline behind his climate promises by February, and again promised to me they’d release an official document, called an implementation plan, on Feb. 28. 

I’m not sure what that will look like. What the city’s independent budget analysts, which work on behalf of the City Council, released in February thus far may qualify with the gist of activists’ request. But that preliminary timeline is complex enough that using it to hold the city accountable wouldn’t be easy. 

“I read the IBA report and I was trying to understand it, and it hit me. It’s almost like I need a math degree to make sense of it. And that means that the general public is going to tune out. It’s just too much,” said Nicole Capretz, founder and executive director of the Climate Action Campaign, which is suing the city over its lack of climate action deadlines.

To explain what they’re looking for, Climate Action Campaign has held up the city of La Mesa. Since 2019, the city published a list of ways the city would cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next two years as well as the costs of each action, the staff time required and the funding opportunities the city would pursue.

In 2022, the city of San Diego updated its Climate Action Plan, which committed the city to reaching a balance between the emissions it generates, and the amount of emissions absorbed either by the natural environment or through new technological means. The Climate Action Campaign lobbied the City Council to reject the proposal from Mayor Todd Gloria because it didn’t include a timeline on how to reach that level.

In the fall, city staff released what it called a draft implementation matrix, a 21-column, seven-page table without many costs or timelines for adopting specific climate actions. The Climate Action Campaign wasn’t satisfied and sued the city

On Feb. 9, the city’s independent budget analyst’s office provided the City Council Environment Committee with another new spreadsheet, reduced to 12 columns, that organizes all of the city’s big climate promises into newly-invented categories of time. The spreadsheet is supposed to inform a City Council policy for prioritizing what climate actions it should take.

Overlooking a canopy of trees on State Route 163 from Balboa Park on Nov. 11, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

It organizes tasks for cutting greenhouse gasses – like buying a zero-emission bus fleet or shifting car commuters onto bicycles or public transit – into four categories of what the IBA calls “action timing:”  Preliminary, foundational, next and other

It’s not intuitive to me, either.

In a sampling of this new time dimension presented to the Environment Committee, a “preliminary” action might include analyzing how many city buildings need to transition from using natural gas  to electricity.

The city says those preliminary things have to happen before the city can move onto “foundational” climate actions, which hit closer to sources of emissions, like electrifying all the other non-public buildings – one of the main ways San Diego hopes to achieve its emissions-cutting target.

A “next” action, for example, could be amending building codes to expand electric vehicle charging stations. An “other” action could be prioritizing emissions reductions in historically underserved communities of concern. 

Whether the city eventually comes up something that satisfies the climate activists now suing the city for lack of action is anyone’s guess.

“We’re kind of over these complex decision-making tools, and instead let’s just move because time is running out,” Capretz said.

In Other News

  • Burying trash in San Diego is about to get more expensive as the city moves toward raising “tipping fees,” a cost that will likely fall onto customers’ bills. (Voice of San Diego)
  • High profile climate advocates sued the city of San Diego saying it shouldn’t allow growth in neighborhoods like Mira Mesa without addressing the huge number of greenhouse-gas producing car commutes it draws. (Voice of San Diego)
  • San Diego’s new watchdog committee that’s supposed to keep tabs on whether SDG&E is fulfilling its contract isn’t whole. (Voice of San Diego)
  •  If you’re behind on your SDG&E bill, a federal program can help. (Union-Tribune)
  • There’s suspicion of manipulation in the natural gas market, an uncomfortably similar feeling to what unfolded during California’s 2000 energy crisis. (Union-Tribune)
  • With more-sensitive testing, sewage spills led to 249 closures in IB and 51 closures in Coronado last year. (Union-Tribune)

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1 Comment

  1. They say if you build it, they will come and come they are by the dozens. The mid-coast trolley and bike lane from Balboa Avenue to Friars Road has ushered in newly minted residents all living in makeshift tents and rotten garbage among multimillion dollar homes and residents in denial. For the past 58 years I have run/walked this stretch of prime real estate and now I must quit for my safety. Cars drive recklessly and speed through red lights, crosswalks, elementary schools and even encroach in the bike lane. Who are these people who drive as if they are sick. Why doesn’t San Diego hire more mental health doctors to treat all our sick residents? Why doesn’t SDPD along with PERT hall these ill people to the ward on Midway? WHY? I do not want to give up my health for being too scared to walk/run insane Diego!!!

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