San Diego Community News Group

It is possible to reduce carbon emissions to zero regionally, according to a new university report commissioned by the county. The cuts will require local governments and agencies to work together, and San Diego County is able to coordinate that effort, the report says.

County supervisors have scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday November 17 to discuss the project “San Diego Regional Decarbonization Framework” the report’s findings as it nears its first phase of completion in February.

The board commissioned the report in January when it voted to continue an effort to bring the entire region – not just the unincorporated county under its jurisdiction – to net emissions zero carbon. Project representatives said this county-led approach is the first of its kind in the country.

The effort would require working with 18 cities and agencies in the region such as the Association of Governments of San Diego (SANDAG).

The data-driven report is developed by UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and other experts in energy, transportation, and construction systems. An additional study on the impact decarbonization would have on employment, another by the Center for Energy Policy Initiatives at the University of San Diego focusing on climate action policies and social equity in the region, and the inclusion of additional stakeholder contributions will complete a fully integrated report in August. 2022.

UC San Diego’s report proposes strategies to reduce regional carbon emissions to net zero levels by 2045, the carbon neutral target set by California in 2018. The report says it has l ‘intention to inform regional, county and city policy making. And that it is separate but complementary to ongoing climate action planning efforts by local governments – such as the county’s work to create a new climate action plan – and the agencies involved in regional energy, transport and land use planning.

It also indicates that local governments have become de facto leaders in the race to reduce greenhouse gases “in the absence of meaningful international action” because local governments are “at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. adaptation and mitigation of climate change ”.

The report says San Diego County is in the right position to help lead local efforts in the area for several reasons.

The county has direct influence on greenhouse gas reduction in several areas, including through its land use development authority in unincorporated areas. It also has indirect influence as a regional governing body with elected officials representing all parts of the county. She plays a role in the development and acquisition of electricity as a member of San Diego Community Power. And he is a voting member of several agencies and councils with authority over public transit, water quality and air. This includes SANDAG, the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, the Metro Transit District and North County Transit District, and the San Diego Regional Airport Authority.

The report proposes to target four main contributors of greenhouse gases to achieve net zero emissions: electricity, transport, buildings and land use.

Decarbonize electricity:

Dramatically increase the amount of renewable energy used by county residents. This would require moving away from power plants fueled by natural gas, installing more solar and wind power plants and possibly modernizing transmission lines.

Decarbonize transport:

Finding ways to get more people into electric vehicles – something the report noted the county started with its Electric vehicle roadmap which will build charging stations and encourage people to buy electric vehicles. The report says the region must also reduce kilometers traveled and increase the use of public transport.

Decarbonize buildings:

The report says it will be essential to decarbonize buildings, not just new buildings but existing ones. Heating and air conditioning in buildings accounted for 9% of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2014, or about 300,000 metric tonnes. The report proposes to switch from the use of natural gas to heat water and spaces to electricity, and from the use of furnaces and air conditioners to electric heat pumps.

Using the natural environment and land use to remove carbon dioxide from the air:

Animals breathe oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. But plants, trees, wetlands, grasslands and agriculture extract CO2 from the air and use it to grow through photosynthesis. The report states that “the easiest, most effective and least expensive solution is to continue to protect and preserve natural and working lands”, as the county has done as part of its Conservation program for several species and Agricultural land easement purchase program.

Since this is a draft report, the authors say its analyzes and implications may change before it is finalized in February.

Some of the findings of the draft report include:

  • While some sources of carbon emissions in the region can be attributed to a specific geographic area, such as methane from solid waste landfills, the three largest sources of emissions in San Diego, light vehicles (37%) , electricity (23%), and natural gas in buildings (8%) exceed municipal limits.

  • Reducing GHG emissions in the region is a collective action problem that requires joint action by many actors who, in the absence of incentives, would choose not to contribute.

  • Many of the policies needed to achieve net zero emissions are controlled at the state or federal level, not by local governments. The San Diego area can be a strong supporter of such policies, such as federal tax incentives.

  • San Diego County has sufficient solar and wind resource potential to boost electricity to 100% of estimated demand with renewable resources within the county.

  • The neighboring county of Imperial has significant solar and geothermal resources beyond the internal demands of the population.

  • The independent California system operator estimates the necessary transmission network upgrades for San Diego-Imperial-Baja-Arizona are $ 3.9 billion and will take decades.

To read the draft Regional Decarbonization Framework report and submit comments, visit County sustainability webpage.

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