County's 2019 climate action efforts reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Amount reduced equals GHGs from 14 million gallons of gasoline
Last updated 10/15/2020 at 5:56pm
SAN DIEGO – In 2019, the county of San Diego made significant progress toward reducing its carbon footprint in communities and local government operations. According to its Annual Monitoring Report, which tracks the county’s strategies and 26 specific measures to reduce greenhouse gases, the County has met 98% of its 2020 target.
By implementing the measures in its 2018 Climate Action Plan, the County reduced 130,075 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) in one year. This is equivalent to reducing the same amount of GHG emissions that result from 14,636,548 gallons of gasoline!
In response to a June 12 Court of Appeal ruling, the county will assess which aspects of its 2018 CAP and Environmental Impact Report need to be redrafted. Upon rescission of the 2018 CAP and EIR by the Board of Supervisors, the county will work on revised versions in
partnership with residents, business, and environmental groups. However, the county will
continue implementing sustainability measures to effectively reduce GHGs as part of its
ongoing commitment to the environment.
For the second year in a row, county efforts have really paid off, especially in its work to
acquire open space and agricultural easements, plant trees, distribute rain barrels, reduce
emissions from county vehicles, and reduce energy use in county facilities. These efforts have
brought the county 20% closer to the 2020 target from the previous year.
According to Kelly Bray, a sustainability project manager for the county, the programs currently
underway are making a tangible difference in the quality of life for San Diegans.
“When looking at ways local government can tackle climate change, it is important to have
programs in place that are measurable and tangible. Tracking results allows us to better
understand what is working well and where we may want to change course to meet the 2018
CAP GHG reduction targets for 2020 and 2030,” said Bray.
The county of San Diego is dedicated to effective government GHG reduction programs in the region. It prioritizes sustainability in many diverse ways, such as designing resource-efficient buildings, conserving undeveloped land through programs like the Multiple Species
Conservation Program (MSCP) and the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements, and
committing to exceed the state’s waste diversion goal. The county, which was the first in California and second in the nation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification for communities, works with regional partners to foster healthy, thriving, sustainable San Diego communities.
Examples of how the County’s award-winning programs improved the environment in 2019:
Building climate resilience through conservation
Through the MSCP, in 2019, the county conserved another 1,269 acres through conservation.
This adds to the existing land acquired and placed into permanent conservation by the county
for a total of 4,897 acres since 2014. This ensures the land will not be developed, preserves
critical habitat, and reduces GHG emissions that would have occurred if the land were
The county works with partners to acquire, manage, and monitor preserved lands
while also engaging the public in education about the value of these exceptional resources
through events such as Green Friday nature hikes and bike rides, park-led encounters with
hawks, and a National Association of Counties Achievement Award-winning youth
programs such as Energy Saving Adventures (2011) and Nature Explorers (2017).
In 2019, the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation received a Merit Award from
California Trails and Greenways, an Achievement Award from the California Park and
Recreation Society, as well as a NACo Achievement Award for the Old Survey Road Trail-User
Video and Self-Issued Permits Program.
The county’s program, which allows park users to receive a self-issued permit by completing a short educational video and online test, was designed to balance access and public education with the protection of sensitive natural resources.
Increasing value through reduction, reuse, repair, and recycling
Guided by the Strategic Plan to Reduce Waste and CAP targets to divert 75% of waste
from landfills by 2025 and 80% by 2030, the County of San Diego Department of Public
Works assists schools, community groups, businesses and residents of the
unincorporated county to reduce waste through reduction, reuse, repair, and recycling.
In 2019, 60% of waste was diverted from landfills in the unincorporated county through
its Department of Public Works’ waste reduction and recycling programs, and
composting workshops. In addition, it supplied over 5,500 recycling and composting bins to
schools, businesses, and multi-family residences.
DPW provided composting and job-skills training to over 100 program participants and staff at the Men’s Training Center rehabilitation facility in Dulzura. The County also offered free recycling of tires, green waste, and metal at community cleanup events in Campo, Lincoln Acres, and Valley Center.
Roadmap to clean transportation
To improve regional air quality and contribute to the long-term vision of an electrified regional
roadway network, the county approved the Electric Vehicle (EV) Roadmap in October 2019. The EV Roadmap, which received a 2020 Achievement Award from NACo, is a plan to accelerate EV ownership and charging infrastructure installations throughout the unincorporated County. The roadmap commits the county to a number of actions that will support regional efforts to electrify the roadway network including the installation of 2,040 EV charging stations
throughout the unincorporated area that will be available for public use by 2028, a streamlined
permitting processes for new charger installations, the development of a robust EV website, a
commitment to convert 501 of the County’s fleet vehicles to electric by 2027, and a focus on
education and equitable distribution of EV technologies throughout the county’s region.
In 2019, the county approved policy changes that require the installation of EV chargers in all
new county facilities, in addition to the existing 37 public EV charging stations that are currently
installed, and 63 that will be funded in fiscal year 2020-2021.
Sustainably designed energy-efficient buildings
The county continues to increase energy efficiency and reduce its use in new and existing
buildings, as outlined in the county’s Zero Net Energy Portfolio Plan. All new county facilities
are designed to achieve the green building designation of LEED Gold or higher, and the county
currently owns 20 buildings that have received this certification to date.
All new buildings are required to be evaluated for zero-net energy (ZNE) use, which means that
they generate as much or more energy as the building consumes. In 2019, county buildings
generated 6,480-megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity through solar photovoltaic arrays. This is
equivalent to powering 529 homes (with average usage) or removing 990 gasoline-powered
vehicles from the road for one year!
Visitors can experience this state-of-the-art energy-efficient design at the newly completed 6,000 square-foot Santa Ysabel Nature Center, which received LEED Gold certification and achieves ZNE through 90 rooftop solar panels and two public electric vehicle charging stations.
How you can contribute to sustainable and thriving communities
All individual and collective actions add up. Every person, every business, and every entity has a role to play in addressing climate change. Here are some simple things you can do at home, in your workplace, or in your community to make a difference: reduce your plastic, conserve
energy, and conserve water outdoors.
For more ideas, review the What You Can Do section of the Annual Monitoring Report, at https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/sustainability/cap.html.
Submitted by San Diego County Land Use & Environment Group.