We Can Create a Green Energy/Good Jobs Future

The Environmental Quality Report Card series examines environmental stewardship of San Diego Councilmembers and the Mayor. The series looks at history of past reports, shows the voting record of individual Councilmembers, explains voting methodology and examines the environmental issues the Councilmembers voted on.


Mariana Lopez, an activist for Environmental Health Coalition, looks over the closed South Bay Power Plant, which had polluted her community for many years. Photo Credit 9MPhoto.com

The bright promise of a clean energy future that will reduce our carbon footprint, protect public health and stimulate the creation of well-paying, career-track jobs holds strong allure and opportunity for the San Diego/Tijuana region.  The question is can we do it in a way that fuses concerns about jobs, community revitalization, social justice and environmental quality — particularly in underemployed and underserved low-income communities?

Right now, the City of San Diego is updating our roadmap for a clean energy future in the Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan (CMAP).  This is the document that outlines how we plan to reach the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals of 1990 levels by 2020.  It sounds like it might be yet another static document gathering dust on the shelf, but the issue of how we deal with our climate crisis holds the key to our economic and environmental future.

The CMAP will tackle the pressing issues of our day, including energy, water, transportation, food and economic development.  The vision we outline in each category has immense opportunity to improve our long-term economic security and stability.  The Council astutely appointed a citizen’s stakeholder committee to help shepherd the process and make recommendations, but ultimately the Mayor and Council will decide whether we chart an ambitious course to energy independence, clean air and a clean economy, or whether we plod slowly along the polluting auto-dependent fossil fuel path.

EHC will be supporting policies that support smarter and more efficient use of energy and installation of renewable energy systems in our literal backyard – parking lots, rooftops and vacant land.  We will be supporting expanded opportunities for local food production and distribution.  We will be supporting policies that get us out of our cars and onto functional transit systems, bike lanes and sidewalks.  We will be supporting aggressive water conservation measures and reuse/recycling.  And we will be supporting a green economy that is accessible and beneficial to all members of our diverse community.

Ultimately, we believe that a prosperous green future for all is possible only if public officials make wider and more aggressive use of the tools at their disposal — including the bully pulpit, including contracting requirements for labor standards and local hire, including green energy mandates on city buildings, including partnerships with local business, and including initiatives to spur locally based capital investment.  If done correctly, we can develop forms of community-supportive economic enterprises that anchor jobs in communities and ensure wealth-creation in all neighborhoods.

There is no doubt that we can forge clean energy solutions that benefit all San Diegans, including our corporate and government partners.  The question is whether our Mayor and Council are willing to step up the plate and deliver that homerun unified vision that uplifts our entire region without sacrificing communities that are historically left out of the process.

Nicole Capretz is a campaign manager at Environmental Health Coalition.