City staff presented an update to the City Council Tuesday on the first year’s efforts toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Carlsbad. The report, which covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, is required under the Climate Action Plan adopted by the City Council in late 2015. Read more about these efforts on the city’s website (starts on page 396).
At a Glance
State legislation requires all cities in California to develop a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
City staff gave an update at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on Carlsbad’s plan, one of the most detailed and measurable plans in the San Diego region.
The plan includes things the city can do to use less energy as well as steps the community can take.
State law says cities must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 40 percent of the 1990 levels by 2030. To address this law, the City of Carlsbad developed a Climate Action Plan in conjunction with the update of the city’s General Plan, which provides a blueprint for future land use and transportation policy in Carlsbad. Both were approved by the City Council in September 2015, following eight years of extensive technical studies and community involvement.
“This plan builds on Carlsbad’s decades-long commitment to sustainability,” said Mike Grim, the city’s Climate Action Plan administrator, who previously oversaw a number of environmental programs for the city, including its extensive system of protected habitat. “Sustainability is one of our community’s core values and something the City Council committed to back in 2007 by adopting the city’s sustainability guiding principles.”
The City of Carlsbad’s updated General Plan includes strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as mixed-use and higher density development and ways to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips. The Climate Action Plan spells out specific milestones and quantifiable goals to support those strategies.
“When you’re talking about reducing greenhouse gases, it’s really about buildings and transportation,” said Grim. “That’s why we’ve focused our plan on improving the way new buildings are built, getting older buildings retrofitted and getting people around town in a way that doesn’t require their hands to be on a steering wheel.”
What's Been Done Already
Since the City of Carlsbad participated in a pilot study of its energy use in 2006, it has made a number of changes, including:
Swapping out street lights and lights in city buildings with energy efficient bulbs
Updating city laws to promote greater energy efficiency
Installing solar panels at existing and future city facilities
Streamlining the solar permitting process
Replacing gas vehicles with hybrid and alternative fuel models
Enhancing bike lanes and installing bike racks
Investing in traffic signal technology to ease traffic and the associated emissions from stop and go traffic and idling
Installing automatic water meter readers to better monitor use and detect leaks
Planting drought resistant landscaping and installing artificial turf at city parks
Doubling the capacity of its recycled water plant and expanded the purple pipe distribution system
"People don’t often equate water and energy, but in a region where most of our water is imported from hundreds of miles away, including over mountain ranges, there is definitely a nexus,” said Grim. “A huge amount of energy is required to pump that water.”
Grim said that the Climate Action Plan was completed before the Carlsbad Desalination Project came online. The desalting process is energy-intensive, but that needs to be weighed against the energy needed to move water from Northern California and the Colorado River, he said.
“Measurement and monitoring are big parts of the plan,” said Grim. “We will be tracking everything and making adjustments as needed to ensure we meet our targets.”
Some of the programs currently underway include:
Updates to city ordinances to ensure building and development activity incorporates measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
New electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city, starting with Stagecoach Community Park in the south and the Village in the north
Working with employers to offer programs that reduce the total number of cars on the road or at least shift the time when cars are on the road to reduce traffic
The city is also participating in a feasibility study with Encinitas and other North County cities evaluating something called community choice energy. The approach allows local governments and some special districts to pool the electricity needs of their communities and purchase alternative energy supplies directly from providers. The city’s updated General Plan calls for the city to support a regional approach to study the feasibility of establishing community choice energy or another program that increases the renewable energy supply and maintains the reliability and sustainability of the electrical grid.
According to Grim, Carlsbad joins San Diego, Escondido, National City, Vista and San Marcos in having a “qualified” Climate Action Plan. This means that future development can use the plan to address greenhouse gas emissions from projects rather can conducting a separate analysis. Other local cities with plans include Chula Vista, Del Mar and Encinitas. Oceanside recently initiated an update to its General Plan, which will also include development of a Climate Action Plan, and the County of San Diego is conducting stakeholder meetings on its planning process.