City releases greenhouse gas inventory report

The first tangible piece of the city of Escondido’s Climate Action Plan update, its greenhouse gas inventory report, has hit the presses.

The report, a 26-page document outlining the sources of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions within city limits, was contracted out and written by the University of San Diego School of Law’s Energy Policy Information Center. It will serve as a roadmap of sorts for how the city considers going about tackling climate change and meeting its Climate Action Plan obligations under the legal auspices of California Assembly Bill 32 of 2006 (the California Global Warming Solutions Act).

According to the report, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions are automobile-generated. In total, 53 percent of emissions come from on-road transportation, says the report. That included more than 4.7 million miles per year between 2012 and 2014 of automobile trips into and out of Escondido, as well as 576,000 to 588,000 miles driven from point to point within city limits. Over 60-percent of that traffic in highway-heavy Escondido came from trucks of various shapes and sizes.

This emissions predominance by the automobile sector is consistent with other cities across San Diego County and Southern California in general, University of San Diego School of Law adjunct professor and report author Nilmini Silva-Send previously told The Coast News on the sidelines of the launch workshop for the Climate Action Plan, which took place in July at City Hall. Silva-Send serves as the assistant director of the energy policy initiatives center.

Electricity sits as the second-highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the city, with 27 percent of the city’s emissions coming from that source point. As previously reported by The Coast News, the largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter in the city of Escondido is the Palomar Energy Center power plant, which is owned by Sempra Energy. Sempra, headquartered in downtown San Diego, is the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric.

The greenhouse gas inventory report also includes projected numbers and figures, which conclude that automobile usage will go down by 2050, further estimating that greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and natural gas will increase by that same year.

“I think what you are seeing with future changes in vehicle miles traveled is something reflective of changes expected to the network overall, with future infrastructure projects that should provide more people with a variety of travel choices or network options,” Mike Strong, assistant planning director for the city of Escondido, told The Coast News. “These improvements increase access with shorter travel distances … but (also) other projects will also increase access to new transportation options that encourage walking, biking, carpooling, or taking transit, such as the Missing Link Project in downtown. Furthermore, a lot of cities, including Escondido, have also planned for future housing density and job growth in urbanized areas where there is existing and/or planned transportation infrastructure.”

Sophie Wolfram, director of programs for the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign, told The Coast News that she was not surprised by the contents of the report. But she says it should serve as a call to action.

“The GHG Inventory tells us exactly what we already knew, which is that sprawling development and car dependency have led to transportation being the leading contributor to climate change in Escondido and in every city in the region,” Wolfram said.

“Now the question is how seriously Escondido’s elected officials will commit to clean air, healthy hearts and lungs, affordable access to economic opportunity and a livable climate,” she said. “To get there, the city must prioritize walking, biking, transit, and affordable housing near transit as cornerstones of its CAP. Electricity and natural gas are the second- and third-biggest sources of GHGs in the inventory, and we already know that the way to slash those emissions is to eliminate natural gas by fully electrifying our homes, and to get to 100 percent clean energy.”

Strong said that coming down the pike in October, the Climate Action Plan will go before the city’s Planning Commission and Escondido’s City Council with a status report on the first round of public outreach.

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