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The city also retrofitted streetlights with LED lighting to help reduce electricity use.
The city also retrofitted streetlights with LED lighting to help reduce electricity use. File photo

Escondido reports progress in climate plan review

ESCONDIDO — The city reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by six metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, including methane and other gasses, between 2020 and 2021, according to the city’s first annual Climate Action Plan monitoring report.

The city first approved its Climate Action Plan, or CAP, in 2013 and updated it just last year with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions citywide. Staff must report the plan’s progress to the Escondido City Council once every year.

The CAP aims to reduce emissions to 42% below 2012 levels by 2030 and to 52% by 2035. The plan identifies 11 strategies to reduce emissions. Each strategy contains various measures to help support the overall strategy, and each measure contains performance metrics that show how the measure will be reached.

For example, the first strategy is for the city to increase its use of zero-emission or alternative fuel vehicles. Within that strategy are four measures, one of which is to install electric vehicle charging stations at parks and ride lots. Under that measure, there are two performance metrics that the measure would need to be considered complete: installing 181 charging stations in parks and ride lots by 2030 and 281 by 2035.

There are a total of 153 performance metrics overall that need to be completed to reach the CAP’s goals. About 25% of those metrics have been implemented, according to the city’s senior planner Veronica Morones, who delivered the CAP monitoring report during the April 6 council meeting.

The goal for 2022 is to implement nine performance metrics while also absorbing uncompleted metrics from last year’s goals.

“There are 17 items to work on in 2022,” Morones said.

Under the CAP’s increasing building energy efficiency strategy, one of the measures completed is reducing electricity use in streetlights. The city retrofitted more than 1,000 streetlights with LED lighting between 2020 and 2021.

Two ongoing performance metrics include planting and maintaining 2,802 trees at new developments by 2030 and 4,076 trees by 2035.

“Trees are really our best partners in combating the climate crisis,” said Anna Marie Velasco, a resident who also served on the community advisory group reviewing the CAP process.

Velasco mentioned several priorities the group wants the city to focus on over the next year, including planting more trees as well as developing a zero-waste plan to reduce plastic waste. She noted that most of the cities along the state Route 78 corridor have zero-waste plans except for Escondido.

“We’re not going to meet our goals unless we really tackle the plastic problem,” she said.

Velasco and other residents also pressed for the city to create a Climate Action Commission to help steer the city’s CAP progress.

Councilmember Joe Garcia was concerned about the city falling behind in its CAP progress.

“I just want to make sure we don’t fall behind because this is a document that took everyone a long time to get to this point and there are a lot of requirements for us,” he said.

Some residents feel the city still hasn’t done enough to combat climate change and is running out of time to make a difference.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), climate model simulations have projected the average global temperature to rise between 2 and 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 to 5.4 degrees Celsius) by 2100. This is caused by heat-trapping gasses like carbon dioxide that are generated by human activities. Burning fossil fuels are the biggest contributor to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Councilmember Mike Morasco disagreed with the idea that climate change is the city’s current top priority.

“We can afford to do what we’re mandated to do by the state,” he said. “We don’t need to be going above and beyond what we can afford.”

Though the city still has plenty to tackle with the CAP, the plan itself scored the highest among neighboring jurisdictions whose CAPs were also evaluated by the Climate Action Campaign.

“It’s affirming that we have a good plan,” said Deputy Mayor Tina Inscoe.