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San Diego to ban natural gas in new homes and businesses as part of climate fight

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Credit: Petr Kratochvil/Public Domain

San Diego’s leaders have declared war on natural gas to drastically reduce the city’s carbon footprint and achieve net-zero emissions by 2035.

The city council voted unanimously this week to approve a dramatically revised climate action plan, calling for a ban on fossil fuels in new construction while electrifying nearly all existing buildings over the next 12 years.

Dozens of cities across California have restricted the installation of gas ranges and stoves in new construction, including Encinitas. However, renovating entire neighborhoods would be a huge undertaking for which there is little precedent.

The new climate blueprint, written by Mayor Todd Gloria and his team, calls for a new building code to be drawn up as early as next year. Details about electrifying existing homes, office towers and other structures are yet to be worked out.

“The window to reverse the dangerous trends of climate change is closing quickly and this moment requires aggressive action,” Gloria said at Tuesday’s public hearing. “Executing this more ambitious plan will not be easy, but the financial costs and human consequences of doing nothing are almost unimaginable.”

Targeting local natural gas sources represents a sharp departure from the previous iteration of the plan, which relied more on state and federal programs to curb city emissions.

According to city documents, phasing out natural gas from existing buildings, including all city-owned buildings, represents nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gas reductions in the plan by 2035. According to the previous plan, which was drafted in 2015 by then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer , strategies to make buildings greener accounted for less than 2 percent of total spending cuts.

“There’s one move in this… that outweighs any other strategy, and that’s the move to phase out 90 percent of natural gas from existing buildings,” said Jordan More, a tax and policy analyst at the city’s municipal office. independent budget analyst. the public meeting.

City leaders recognized the great elevator ahead of us. Councilman Joe LaCava pledged to help make the new goals a reality and called on city officials to develop a detailed implementation and funding plan over the coming months.

“We will meet our targets,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “I commit to working closely with the mayor’s office on the timelines.”

Many environmentalists praised the city for its bold vision, while others were more reserved.

“The City Council gives us hope that the city is serious now, but we have to wait to celebrate until we see real action,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign.

According to an independent analysis by the Building Electrification Institute, the impact of banning natural gas in new construction is expected to be “minor,” eliminating about 65 of the region’s 32,000 housing jobs.

However, the broader vision of decarbonising nearly all existing buildings in the city will have a “much greater impact”, according to the report. The city has approximately 6,200 jobs related to natural gas distribution, including electricians, plumbers and engineers. While some workers are likely to be able to find work elsewhere, about 1,900 specialized workers could find themselves in a difficult position.

Still, retrofitting buildings with electric heaters and heat pumps would create “thousands” of new jobs, the report found. Ensuring a smooth transition will likely require years of planning so that workers can gain skills in other sectors, such as water and sewage.

“The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan must include a Jobs Action Plan, stronger worker protections, and labor standards to create good green energy jobs,” said Cristina Marquez, an organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569.

Many strategies to contain climate pollution in the updated plan remained largely unchanged. Officials are still looking to increase investment in local solar and other renewable energy projects through the city’s public alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric known as San Diego Community Power. The so-called community choice aggregation program launched last year serves customers in San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach.

The city is also doubling down on a plan to reduce driving. Its vision calls for increasing housing density and refurbishing streets to encourage half of all commuters to walk, cycle and use public transport by 2035, although the city has tweaked its goals slightly, with the aim is less public transport and bicycle use and more walking.

Getting people out of their cars, however, was a major challenge in the vast Southern California.

The recent failure of a proposed tax hike in San Diego County, spearheaded by workers and green groups to dramatically expand the region’s rail system, represents a major setback to the city’s efforts to curb tailpipe emissions.


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2022 The San Diego Union Tribune.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Quote: San Diego bans natural gas in new homes and businesses as part of climate battle (2022, Aug. 4), retrieved Aug. 4, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-san-diego-natural-gas-houses .html

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