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

San Diego should think about business more when it sets climate policy, business groups argued to the Council’s Environment Committee Thursday, before the committee unanimously approved a new tool to help guide its decision making on key climate actions.

The tool is intended to prioritize the 190 different things San Diego can do to eliminate greenhouse gasses under Mayor Todd Gloria’s Climate Action Plan 2.0. It’s a scoring system that weighs each action by its impacts on greenhouse gasses, and other factors like air quality, and equity developed by the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office or IBA. 

But before the committee acted, industry representatives during public comment argued the city was too focused on cutting emissions, and not enough on other considerations.

Lauren Cazares, a policy advisor with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the policy undervalues the benefits certain climate actions may have on local jobs and the economy.

“How is the city going to meet these ambitious goals without the partnership and expertise from the private sector?” Cazares asked. 

Craig Benedetto, a lobbyist for the commercial real estate industry, called the new policy “skewed” and “not reflective” of input from jobs and housing creators. 

The City Council left the creation of this new climate scoring system in the hands of the IBA, which conducted its own public outreach campaign to weigh what impacts of climate policy people found most important. Councilwoman Jen Campbell pointed out that the IBA only had 22 respondents to a virtual public forum that influenced the rankings. Jobs and economy ranked lowest in terms of importance to climate action. Greenhouse gas emission reductions ranked highest. 

“Scientifically, this is not a good study,” Campbell said. “I think it is true that greenhouse gas numbers are on everyone’s mind because after all that’s what’s warming the climate most. …but to base a whole lot on 20 people in a city of 1.5 million is not a good idea.”

Jordan More, fiscal and policy analyst with the IBA, said this wasn’t meant to be a scientific study in the first place. But the policy shakes out which climate actions are the biggest impact to emissions. 

“The point is, the prioritization policy shows what the most important things are, the biggest action is the roadmap to decarbonization (of buildings) and that’s 10 points ahead of everything else,” More said. “That shows a big signal.”

Councilman Joe La Cava, the committee chair, asked that this policy be reviewed each year.

“This is among the most difficult, conceptual policies our city has ever seen,” Councilman Raul Campillo said. “This is like inventing calculus and probably just as hard. This is not the tool we’ll use to solve every problem. But what it will help us solve are the ones that are immensely important to solve.” 

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  1. It’s amusing that Councilman Raul Campillo equates forming an environmental policy to inventing calculus. 20 people out of the population of San Diego is hardly statistically significant, and any environmental model is highly dependent on factors out of the city council’s control.

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