Encinitas moves forward with climate action update


Encinitas is pushing forward with plans to have a draft update of its Climate Action Plan ready for City Council consideration in June.

That was the message city employees and consultants had March 9 for the city’s Environmental Commission, which is tasked with handling the city’s latest efforts to reduce its carbon emissions and thus Encinitas’ small part in causing global warming.

The new plan, which will replace one that the council adopted in 2011, will continue to offer various ideas that the city can use to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but it also will set specific carbon-reduction targets that the city must try to achieve in the coming decades.

By 2020, the city is proposing to cut its carbon emission rates by 4 percent, by 2030 that figure jumps to 41 percent and by 2050 it’s 78 percent. As a base line, the city uses its 2012 carbon emission rate of 474,635 metric tons. In addition to these general carbon-reduction targets, the plan will have goals in individual categories, such as reducing residential electricity use by 2 percent and natural gas use by 4 percent by 2030.

The goal isn’t simply to create a planning document, but to be able to assess whether the city is actually achieving its goals to reduce green house gas emissions, said Crystal Najera, the city’s Climate Action Plan program administrator.

Hours before the city’s Environmental Commission met, the new head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said at an energy conference that he didn’t believe carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels was a primary contributor to global warming — a comment that was taken to mean that the new Trump administration would be rolling back regulations put in place by President Obama’s administration and putting itself at odds with the world’s climate scientists.

The federal government’s shift in stance on climate change was on city Environmental Commission members’ minds March 9.

“My concern is we’re going to lose four years of progress on the federal level,” commission Chairman John Eldon said after asking city staff members what carbon emission standards they were using and whether those were state or federal figures.

The March 9 meeting was focused on setting goals for carbon reduction and hearing ways to achieve those goals. Staff members displayed six poster boards that contained proposals they unveiled at two recent public workshops. During those sessions, participants were given colored sticker dots and told to rank various proposals.

Suggestions that received high numbers of stickers included:

• adopting a leaf-blower ordinance to limit the use of gas-powered, leaf-blowers

• creating a local shuttle bus system to increase public transit use

• developing a citywide “active” transportation plan

• establishing an urban tree planting program

• increasing coordination between regional transit services and area schools to encourage public transit use.

Some people wrote down their own suggestions on sticky note pads and stuck them on the city’s display boards. Those suggestions included banning single-use plastic silverware, providing compost bins next to trash cans at city buildings and parks, and requiring new home to have gas instead of wood fireplaces.

During the March 9 meeting, people had a few more suggestions. Julia Chunn-Herr, policy manager for the San Diego County chapter of Surfrider Foundation, said she would like the city to pay attention to the distance that its water travels, noting that some of the county’s drinking water requires a great deal of energy to get from far-distance sources to residents’ faucets.

“Much as we look at energy sources, we should look at water sources,” she said.

Arborist Mark Wisniewski told the commission that proposals to help reduce green house gases by planting trees aren’t always as effective as people might think. For example, he said, palm trees are virtually useless in achieving that goal because they don’t have much greenery on top and they require annual trimming using heavy equipment, which produces more green house gas emissions.

People can continue to comment at public meetings on the plan in the coming months. They also can do so online via a city-sponsored conversation on PlaceSpeak at:

Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune.