By Jim Bliesner
California is leading the world in its pursuit of reducing carbon emissions, the identified culprit in causing global warming. California has not only established benchmarks for major industries for their reduction of carbon but has legislated a fining system for those who do not comply with the benchmarks.
If a major polluter, say Sempra Energy cannot meet its goal of reduced emissions, it has the option to pay the state for the excess. The payment goes into a statewide Cap and Trade fund (Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund). Those funds in turn are to be allocated to activities that reduce carbon emissions.
Cap and Trade Funds also exist in the nine states in the North East of the USA and in Europe. They are prescribed by international accords and have existed for many years in Europe. California’s fund is huge by comparison.
A second element in California’s efforts (defined in AB32 and SB375) is a requirement that all charter government entities–cities, counties, etc.– are required to develop a plan. The plan guidelines are set by the California Air Resources Board and are fairly general. The whole region is also covered by a SANDAG plan.
All the cities in San Diego County are busily producing or have approved plans. The County has one for the unincorporated areas, the Port has their own and the City of San Diego had one but it was challenged in court and it is now being rewritten. Opponents thought it was not a serious effort.
Meanwhile, the State Cap and Trade Fund has grown to about $850M. Of course when a pot of money that large is created it does not take long for the politicians to figure out strategies to divide it up while staying somewhere within reach of the legislative guidelines. (See Figure 1 by Yung Nguyen)). Governor Brown’s big item is a high speed bullet train. Various legislators have gotten related bills passed which prescribe where the funds should go.
Rep. Steinberg from Sacramento, for example, got a bill passed allocating a share for “affordable housing”. One of the most significant prescriptions calls for 25% of all the funds to be allocated to low income communities for public transit and/or housing. The rationale is that low income communities contain “hot spots” of pollution. Barrio Logan immediately comes to mind here in San Diego. The identified sources of pollution (see Figure 2, Taylor) are more diverse and concentrates on industry types vs geography.
The Barrio Logan Community Plan made suggestions to reduce pollution in a low income neighborhood, one of the most polluted in the state and the City is choosing not to. What are the alternatives?
So, policies have emerged regarding the allocation of Cap and Trade funds and are outlined in a State Cap and Trade Investment Plan. Localities are engaged in writing their plans in response to the state guidelines. The question hangs in mid air. What activities will the City choose to reduce carbon emissions in low income areas?
We recently saw an effort to dramatically reduce carbon emissions in Barrio Logan as prescribed in their community plan go down in flames in a City wide vote. Large businesses, some of whom are most likely paying fines into the Cap and Trade Fund opposed the plan. The community made suggestions to reduce pollution in a low income neighborhood, one of the most polluted in the state and the City is choosing not to. What are the alternatives?
Freeways transect neighborhoods from City Heights to North Park to Southcrest to Golden Hill, etc. The freeways are a primary source of neighborhood pollution. Are there mitigations in the City’s plan for freeway pollution? Some of the largest polluters lie downwind from large segments of the city. Are there mitigation measures in adjacent cities or the Port’s plan?
The state policies call for “Urban Forests”? Are there plans for planting and maintaining an urban forest in the eligible areas? Where will the affordable housing called for in Steinberg’s legislation be located? What will the impacts be of increased traffic from that dense housing?
The potential to define and localize carbon reduction strategies in low income neighborhoods that actually improve the lives of residents are numerous and go beyond large transit systems, electric cars, down zoning the back country and up zoning the coast.
A small community group in City Heights (Mid City Can) has been leading an effort to access funds to provide free bus passes for low income students. Myriad efforts are underway for community gardens throughout the affected areas and have been underway for years but the land is not available. Proposal’s to cover freeways have long been called for in City Heights, downtown and Golden Hill.
Communities and businesses currently assess themselves for amenities like clean streets and trees, both to plant and to maintain them. Yet City schools sit without solar panels and are surrounded by asphalt playgrounds, especially in Greater Logan Heights. Opportunities for residential solarization are restricted by local utilities while small affordable solar installers struggle to employ local workers. Opportunities to make junk yards “green”are numerous and designs have been developed by Woodbury architectural students as well as UCSD Urban Studies students.
The potential to define and localize carbon reduction strategies in low income neighborhoods that actually improve the lives of residents are numerous and go beyond large transit systems, electric cars, down zoning the back country and up zoning the coast. The opportunity to dramatically enhance the inner city of San Diego is at hand and funds are available to do it– Cap and Trade. Innovative investment instruments capable of managing capital associated with Cap and Trade are emerging in other cities in the State.
Structures and plans are needed to make the Climate Action Plan a livable and effective document. Is the City aware of the Cap and Trade Fund; is it capable of accessing such funds and implementing the detailed and comprehensive plans? Localized carbon reduction is needed and the proposed climate action plans need to reflect opportunities which have the potential to transform our neighborhoods.