July 18, 2008
In response to developer opposition, the Chula Vista City Council abandoned their commitment to reduce carbon emissions and adopted a weak, largely voluntary program on July 10. This retreat came despite an outpouring of public support for the strong mandatory carbon reduction measures recommended by the city’s own Climate Change Working Group.
The original measures, adopted unanimously by council on April 1, 2008, were designed to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. Council directed staff to submit an implementation plan for each of the seven measures, but then diluted the staff plan and adopted a version that eliminated most of the mandatory provisions. The new implementation plan eliminated one measure, the mandatory energy assessments, altogether and made the requirement that new development must exceed state standards by 15% temporary. The council also allowed an option to ‘buy out’ of compliance completely. “It is extremely disappointing that council watered down the measures to a point where they will have little effectiveness in reducing carbon to the levels Chula Vista had committed itself to,” said Chula Vista resident Theresa Acerro.
The Climate Change Working Group was created to fix the city’s Carbon Reduction Plan, originally adopted in 2000 and relying completely on voluntary measures to combat emissions from private sources. The result of this weak Carbon Reduction Plan was a 35% increase in overall emissions. By approving new measures that are based almost entirely on voluntary action or are temporary in nature, Council has repeated the same mistake made in 2000.
The only mandatory provision passed, that of early adoption and expansion of the state’s Green Building Code, focuses on non-energy efficiency aspects of sustainable design such as water conservation, use of recycled building materials, and indoor air quality. Unfortunately, the green building code does little with regard to decreasing energy demand or reliance on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels.
The failure of the City Council to adopt strong, effective carbon reduction measures will have major ramifications in the city. The weakening of the energy efficiency goals will make substantial reductions in energy demand unlikely, making it difficult for the city to remove the South Bay Power Plant and pave the way for the a bigger and more polluting peaker plant on Main street. “The working group gave the city seven strong measures with a thoughtful mix of voluntary and mandatory actions,” said EHC policy advocate and Climate Change Working Group member Leo Miras, “the city, instead, caving to developers and organized business, returned six watered-down, voluntary, and temporary measures. The City had a chance to make history and lead the region and instead repeated the mistakes of the past. ”