The City has a Climate Action Plan in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the ultimate goal of getting to a reduced- or zero-carbon economy.
Carbon neutrality seeks net zero carbon dioxide emission by balancing carbon dioxide emission with removal, working toward eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether.
Carbon dioxide-releasing processes are associated especially with transportation, but also with energy production, agriculture, and industrial processes. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation account for about 28 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions.
Carbon neutrality can be achieved in two ways: Balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon offsets; and reducing carbon emissions to zero through changing energy sources, shifting towards the use of renewable energy sources such as hydro, wind, geothermal, solar, and nuclear power.
“Zero carbon means getting off fossil fuels entirely,” said Maleeka Marsden, co-director of policy for the Climate Action Campaign. “It’s important to secure a safe and livable future. An international panel on climate change has said we need to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by around 2045 (to counteract global warming).”
The San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign is working toward a zero carbon future and a San Diego Green New Deal to protect clean air and promote action to limit climate change.
Point Loma resident Jerry Lohla believes in global warming and is all in on reducing his carbon “footprint,” how much carbon his family produces through their daily activities.
“According to most scientists, the major contributor to global warming is CO2 emission from fossil-fuel vehicles,” said Lohla. “Moving away from gasoline-powered vehicles toward electric vehicles is in the best interest of the planet. Oil prices will continue to decline as we transition away from internal-combustion technology. Sell your Exxon, Mobil, and BP stock now.”
Added Lohla: “The State of Califonia and the City of San Diego are moving in the right direction. The federal government will move in the right direction now that we have a president who listens to scientists and understands science.”
Lohla has taken numerous steps personally to work toward achieving carbon neutrality.
“We installed a more energy-efficient furnace, thermostat, and attic ductwork in 2020,” he said. “We replaced the last of our single-pane windows with low-E energy-efficient windows. We try to minimize our vehicle trips by planning ‘multiple goal’ shopping trips, about once a week during the COVID pandemic. Our primary vehicle for short trips is a ‘Smart Car.’”
Living more sustainably carries over to areas of Lohla’s life outside his home.
“For my volunteer work on the USS Midway Museum, I bicycle to/from there along Harbor Drive when weather and daylight allow,” he said, adding technology is making it easier for people to minimize their carbon emissions.
“We capture virtually all precipitation off our roof with four 50-gallon and one 250-gallon water barrel,” Lohla said. “We’re fortunate to live in Point Loma, where we are able to keep our total monthly utility costs (electric water, sewer) to about $300.”
In 2015, the City Council approved San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for the City to cut half of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The CAP’s strategies include 100 percent renewable electricity, water and energy efficiency, zero waste, and encouraging bicycling, walking, transit and land use.
The City has gone far in implementing its aggressive Climate Action Plan.
“The 2020 Climate Action Plan Annual Report demonstrates the advancements we have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote equity, and encourage growth in clean-technology jobs,” said City spokesperson Alec Phillipp. “San Diego continued its trend of decreasing greenhouse-gas emissions each year, reaching a 25% decrease in 2019 from our 2010 baseline. We are building community partnerships, integrating equitable solutions in Citywide policies, and supporting a 20% increase in jobs that support climate action. We are also ensuring that we better monitor our energy consumption and reduce waste at City buildings.”
Added Phillipp: “We are also accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in the City fleet. These efforts are in addition to our commitment of having our City facilities use 100% clean energy through San Diego Community Power. This year we also introduced new policies, like Complete Communities, that will make walking, biking and taking public transit a more convenient choice while investing in our Communities of Concern. In alignment with this effort we plan to incentivize City employees, encouraging them to continue working remotely while considering the use of alternate methods of transportation.”
Other agencies in the City, like the Metropolitan Transit System operating bus and trolley lines, have followed suit in taking concrete steps to lower carbon emissions from its fleet making mass transit more environmentally sustainable.
On Oct. 19, 2017, the MTS board of directors unanimously approved a multi-year Zero Emissions Bus Pilot Program. The decision builds upon MTS’ strong track record of operating one of the cleanest public transit fleets in the nation.
On Sept. 17, 2020, the MTS board of directors approved the agency’s plan to get the bus fleet to all zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. The plan will fast-track the purchase of 17 vehicles over the next two years including the agency’s first 60-foot articulated electric buses.
Currently, the entire MTS fleet of 40- and 60-foot buses use compressed natural gas, which is one of the cleanest and most affordable fuels available. In addition, MTS also operates 130 zero-emission light rail (trolley) cars.
Moving toward carbon neutrality is a difficult task, but one that needs to get done, said Marsden of CAC.
“People are afraid of change and they’ve been using fossil fuels for a really long time,” she pointed out. “But we’ve found that the percentage of people who care about climate action is much higher than people think. We all have to learn to be vocal, and to inspire other people to be vocal.”
For more information on what MTS is doing to fight carbon emissions, visit sdmts.com/inside-mts-current-projects/zero-emissions-bus-pilot-program.