Watchdog report finds La Mesa, Encinitas lead San Diego County in climate action – KPBS

La Mesa and Encinitas are leading local efforts to combat climate change, according to a report released Thursday by the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign.
The watchdog group’s 6th annual Climate Action Report Card ranked cities’ efforts to increase renewable energy, phase out natural gas usage in buildings and build more compact, walkable neighborhoods with good public transit access.
“La Mesa scored highest because they are building dense infill housing, including affordable housing, near businesses and transit,” said the report’s author, Anthony Dang. “They’ve also made significant progress on planning their La Mesa Boulevard complete streets project, ensuring this area is safer to encourage more biking and walking.”
Encinitas came in second place, largely due to a planned ordinance that incentivizes all-electric buildings. The ordinance is set to go before the Encinitas City Council on June 12.
The city of San Diego ranked fourth among the nine cities that were evaluated. Dang said as the largest city in the county, San Diego should show more leadership on climate action.
“The city of San Diego should urgently adopt ordinances that incentivize electrification of existing buildings and new construction, as well as move the Mobility Master Plan forward to adoption as soon as possible,” Dang said.
The city’s draft Mobility Master Plan was released last year and is still out for public review. It’s meant to help the city prioritize infrastructure spending with the goal of drastically reducing car dependence. The city’s 2022 Climate Action Plan calls for half of all trips in the city to be made via biking, walking or public transit.
California has a goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, which scientists say is necessary to avoid climate catastrophe. A recent report from the think tank Next 10 found the state has to triple its current pace of emissions reductions in order to meet an interim benchmark goal set for 2030.
Climate change posts serious risks to public health, particularly as extreme heat events become more frequent and intense. Tanisha-Jean Martin of the San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition said the stakes are especially high for low-income communities of color, as was made clear by San Diego’s devastating floods on Jan. 22.
“Homes were demolished, families displaced and communities submerged,” Martin said. “Frontline communities, already traditionally underinvested, bear the brunt of damage and costs. It is clear we are ill prepared for the challenges posed by our changing climate.”