SAN DIEGO (CN) – While the federal government has scaled back its commitments to combating climate change, California cities are forging ahead: A new report released Wednesday shows San Diego is ahead of schedule in meeting renewable energy goals outlined in its Climate Action Plan, outpacing its own deadline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as deadlines set by the state of California.
San Diego inked a deal in December 2015 requiring it to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. But the Climate Action Plan doesn’t just outline ambitious goals at reducing and reversing San Diego’s impact on climate change – it’s legally binding. And if the city’s 2035 deadline isn’t met, it can be sued to comply with its own plan.
City officials will reveal a detailed plan on how they will meet the 2035 goal next year.
San Diego is the largest U.S. city to commit to using 100 percent renewable energy, and has already dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget toward reaching its goal.
Wednesday’s progress report showed for the second year in a row San Diego has exceeded its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieving a 19 percent reduction from the 2010 baseline and 3 percent since last year. The city attributes the reduction to higher vehicle efficiency standards, increased renewable energy including solar systems installed in the city, and a higher solid waste diversion rate.
The city is nearly halfway to meeting its 100 percent renewable energy goal, with 43 percent the sources powering the city using renewables.
The Southern California city was named top city for solar rooftop installations and number one for climate and carbon management since implementing the Climate Action Plan, according to city officials.
“We continue to be ahead of schedule on our ambitious goals which means the actions we’re taking are making a difference – and that San Diegans are doing their part to leave a cleaner and more sustainable city than the one we inherited,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement.
In addition to the progress it’s made toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, San Diego points out its gross domestic product has increased at the same time it’s been implementing the Climate Action Plan– bucking the common criticism that prioritizing sustainable policies can negatively impact the economy and businesses.
The city’s GDP has grown by over 30 percent since 2010. There was a nearly 11 percent growth in sustainability-related jobs in the city between 2010 and 2016, including “cleantech” jobs in San Diego which are 2.6 times the national average, according to the report.
San Diego has also reduced residential and municipal energy use by 18 percent and 5 percent, respectively, and lowered per capita water use by 13 percent.
The city has significantly reduced its landfill waste – diverting 66 percent of trash and capturing 75 percent of gas given off from waste so it does not contribute to global warming.
Zero-emission and hybrid vehicles, along with low-emission trash and waste trucks have also been added to the city’s fleet of vehicles.
The city plans to install 3,600 energy efficient street lights and improve its composting and food-recovery operations next year.