The Coast News Group
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear holds a glass 2018 Mayors’ Climate Protection Award in Boston on June 8. From left to right, Stephen K. Benjamin, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Columbia, S.C.; Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Walmart Inc.; Blakespear; Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Courtesy photo
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Encinitas wins national Climate Protection Award

Encinitas got a new feather in its environmental cap through a national award given in Boston on June 8.

At the 86th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Encinitas received an honorable mention in the “small city” category of the 2018 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. It was one of five small cities to earn that designation, while Schenectady in New York took the top prize in the category.

The awards program, co-sponsored by Walmart, recognizes mayors for their efforts in protecting the climate and promoting sustainable energy use. An independent panel of judges made their selections from a pool of applicants.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear attended the conference in Boston and found the experience of “being surrounded by other mayors” both “inspiring” and “a tremendous opportunity for Encinitas.”

She said, “Mayors serve and shape their cities. Hearing directly from them provides insights into ways we can be a better city.”

The award initiative recognized Encinitas for adopting “a gold-standard Climate Action Plan (CAP)” and for appointing an administrator to oversee its implementation. The city’s ambitious goal is, by 2030, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 41 percent below 2012 levels.

The Coast News asked Crystal Najera, Encinitas’ CAP program administrator, what aspect of the plan she is most proud of.

Najera chose community support, noting in her statement, “A lot of good ideas were presented at the public workshops held for the CAP update, and many were included in the final plan. Now, when I attend community events … I am so inspired by the community taking action to reduce their own carbon footprint.”

One of the top three CAP projects that the city is currently working on is conducting a feasibility study for Community Choice Energy (CCE). The study will help Encinitas to determine whether to adopt a CCE program. According to Najera, “Such a program would enable the city to purchase a greater amount of renewable energy to serve residential and commercial customers, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Another green endeavor in Encinitas is the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on various municipal buildings, with the goal to become a “Net Zero Energy City.”

Najera also pointed to Encinitas’ efforts, in conjunction with other neighboring cities and entities such as the U.S. Marine Corps, the North County Transit District and SANDAG, in determining “how to deploy bikeshare in our region in a manner that effectively offers residents an alternative to using vehicles for short trips while not impacting our beautiful coastal communities.”

As the official CAP program administrator, Najera leads by example in her own personal life. Almost every day she bikes to work and bikes her son to school. She owns an electric car, collects rainwater for use in her family’s yard, and in summer “takes advantage of the natural coastal air conditioning and large shade trees around our house.”

The other small city honorable mentions went to Richard C. David, mayor of Binghamton, New York; James Morgan, mayor of Derry, New Hampshire; Jeff Duclos, mayor of Hermosa Beach, California; and Liz Alpert, mayor of Sarasota, Florida. The winner for a large city was awarded to Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas.

Blakespear said, “Recognition sparks action, which is why this award is important.” She identified environmental protection as “among the highest priorities for the city.”