San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s administration released the most daring plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to date as he makes his debut on the world stage of climate change negotiations this week. San Diego draught 2021 Climate Action Plan, which outlines how the city will meet a new climate goal of net zero emissions by 2035, was revealed on Wednesday. As the city’s previous climate plan, adopted in 2015, only aimed for a 50 percent reduction in emissions by the same year, it’s “doubling our efforts,” according to Ashley Rosia-Tremonti, the city’s sustainability program manager.
San Diego has stated that one of the significant ways it will do so is to convert most of the city’s buildings to run on electricity rather than natural gas. That was a central sticking point for local gas workers, who were anxious about losing their employment as more California cities, including Encinitas, began to prohibit gas infrastructure in new buildings. However, San Diego draught plan sets a lofty goal: by 2030, gas will be phased out of 45 percent of existing buildings, not just new ones, and 90 percent by 2035.
Gas prohibition in new buildings has a far more gradual effect on reducing the city’s natural gas consumption. According to analysts, new construction accounts for around 1% of the entire building stock each year. The big kahuna in climate policy is handling existing buildings that have old gas pipelines running through them and want to be retrofitted or changed to run entirely on electricity.
In just five years, how would San Diego go from 45 percent to 90 percent electric buildings? According to Alyssa Muto, the city’s director of sustainability and mobility, the state is already heading in that direction, bypassing new building rules that support electrification, and the technology will follow.