San Diegans have made it clear they want leadership and results when it comes to tackling climate change. San Diego ranks first in the nation in solar installation. The City of San Diego’s landmark Climate Action Plan calls for 100 percent of the city’s energy coming from renewable sources and cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.
And yet, while the City of San Diego is doing its part, the County of San Diego has failed to tackle this urgent challenge of our time and its serious implications on our lives. Six years ago, after a legal challenge by the Sierra Club, the County’s weak, non-binding climate goals were struck down by the courts as insufficient. To date, the County has still refused to take meaningful action to develop an enforceable Climate Action Plan that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, invests in clean energy jobs and prepares our communities for the increased risk of flooding and wildfires that come with rising sea levels and increasing temperatures.
In the meantime, San Diegans are paying a price for the County’s inaction. Our transportation challenges get worse as the County fails to invest in expanding public transit. The housing crisis is exacerbated as the County drags it feet on updating community plans and encouraging affordable homes near transit stops. The health consequences are real too as our most underserved communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and carbon emissions. To these families, action on climate change isn’t about saving polar bears or preserving glaciers. It’s about ensuring clean air and a healthy upbringing for their children.
Add to the mix President Trump’s relentless attacks on environmental protections and his denial of climate science and the County of San Diego’s inaction is even more indefensible. In response to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the California State Legislature voted to uphold the tenets of the Paris accord and double down on its landmark cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions. The County’s response… nothing. In a time when we can no longer count on Washington to act, we need our local leaders to step up and lead here at home.
A new study shows how coastal communities, like San Diego, could experience debilitating inundation due to climate change. The study concluded that without sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2100, parts of every coastal county in the continental US will experience chronic flooding. It is clear that our health and the quality of life of future generations are at stake. Say nothing of the thousands of good jobs for working people and millions in investment we could bring to sunny San Diego by investing in clean energy jobs and working to transform America’s Finest City into America’s Greenest City.
Using other Climate Action Plans as a guide, the County of San Diego must take decisive action to implement an effective, enforceable Climate Action Plan that will achieve meaningful emissions reductions. With political will, decisive action, and long-term commitment, the County can be a leader in tackling climate change and secure a brighter, safer, healthier future for all of San Diego.
Nathan Fletcher is a Democratic Party candidate for County Supervisor in San Diego. He is a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, former member of the California State Assembly and is currently a Professor of Practise in Political Science at the University of California San Diego. www.nathanfletcher.com