Traffic at the intersection of Friars Road and Frazee Road in Mission Valley. / Photo by Dustin Michelson

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If San Diego made a list of all the climate decisions it could make, in order of which cut the most greenhouse gases from the local economy, it’d probably look like the document the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s Office produced last week

The 190 things Mayor Todd Gloria wants the city to do to reach net zero emissions by 2035 are now laid out in order from highest to lowest priority for the City Council – with the goal of reducing emissions valued above all else.

That wasn’t always the case.

Now San Diegans who are invested in reducing the region’s contribution to climate change can point to a document and ask the city to spend money on the things we know reduce emissions.

The new IBA analysis makes clear that to make the biggest reduction in its carbon footprint, it should first gut buildings of natural gas as a source of power.

The city’s Sustainability and Mobility Department already went through a similar exercise of trying to rank climate actions by greenhouse gas impact and what stakeholders – like climate activists and the business community – wanted. The department used a tool developed by the Amsterdam-based Erasmus University Rotterdam to help synthesize years of public surveys into an alternate scoring system called CLIMACT. 

It shook out which climate actions should probably occur first before moving onto others to cut GHGs, ordering decisions into four categories of time called preliminary, foundational, next and other actions (which I complained was thoroughly confusing back in February). But that CLIMACT tool didn’t weigh the greenhouse gas-reducing ability of a climate action alongside its ability to improve air quality, public health or address equity problems. 

The IBA’s re-mathing of all these things San Diegans find important about climate action, and prioritizing GHG reduction above all else, still didn’t change the rankings that much. The top and bottom priorities remain pretty much the same between the IBA and Sustainability and Mobility Department’s value systems. 

What did happen is climate action impacts to the local jobs and economy dropped to the bottom of relative importance. That irked the regional chamber of commerce, yet the City Council Environment Committee remained unmoved and passed the IBA’s new climate accountability tool onto the full City Council for consideration. 

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  1. These elected officials arent serious about climate change. If they were, they’d start with the easy stuff. Items such as fixing the 30,000 street light sensors in the city that are broken and leave cars idling at street lights unnecessarily. Or how about brining back school bussing (electric busses of course) instead of 100’s of thousands of individual car trips by parents back and forth to school twice a day. Or how about the thousands of cars that idle at the Mexico border for hours all day long…every day of the year. Start with the easy stuff before trying to force people to give up clean burning gas stoves!

  2. I think the science is in that “clean burning” gas appliances is marketing rather than truth. Running more bus routes more often and for free or little charge would help a lot. Opening all high schools to kids from all neighborhoods killed school bus routes. I help transport my niece to high school because the morning bus route takes 2 hrs. In my car it is 30 min. Right now we are highly incentivized to get her licensed and driving herself to school. None of my starting points or destinations are well covered by public transit. I’ve lived in and visited cities like Chicago, New York, London, and Milan where I didn’t have a car and didn’t miss having one.

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