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San Diego Joins 'Cool' Cities

By Gisela Sommer
Epoch Times San Diego Staff
Nov 04, 2006

Volunteers from the San Diego Sierra Club started the Cool Cities Campaign in 2005. Their initiative challenges mayors across the country to take local action to reduce pollution that contributes to global warming. (Gisela Sommer/The Epoch Times)

SAN DIEGO–San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement on October 27, pledging his support to continue the City's efforts to help fight global warming.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels initiated the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in February 2005–the same day the Kyoto Protocol was ratified by 141 countries, not including the United States. Mayor Nickels challenged mayors across the country to take local action to reduce pollution that contributes to global warming, and by the end of March ten mayors had responded.

On June 13, 2005 the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement unanimously. As of October 26, 2006 323 American mayors have accepted the challenge. Notables include Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago and Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco.

Participating mayors who sign this agreement are making a commitment to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their cities by recycling, increasing energy efficiency and water conservation, reducing vehicle miles traveled, maintaining healthy urban forests, reducing urban sprawl, promoting the use of clean, renewable energy resources, and the adoption of sustainable building practices.

"By signing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, I am investing in the future of San Diego," said Sanders.

"We at the Sierra Club are very, very pleased, and even surprised, that Mayor Sanders signed on," said Sofia Gidlund, the San Diego Sierra Club's 'Cool Cities' director. "We are very encouraged by it!"

The San Diego Sierra Club volunteers started the Cool Cities Campaign in 2005. They asked mayors to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and start implementing the plans. Mayor Stephen C. Padilla of Chula Vista signed the agreement a couple of weeks ago.

San Diego has already taken a number of steps towards becoming a greener, cooler city, but many people believe more work is needed.

The agreement promotes adoption and enforcement of land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities. The City's General Plan and Multiple Species Conservation Plan both include guidlines for open space conservation and walkable urban communities, but according to Gidland, urban sprawl and the atmospheric heat it generates are still big problems in San Diego.

In the area of transportation the City is working to increase the average fuel efficiency of municipal fleet vehicles and reduce the number of vehicles, among other measures. Furthermore the City's trash collection routes have been adjusted to reduce the number of miles traveled so as to reduce fuel emissions and will save taxpayers approximately $1,000,000. The City's greatest success thus far has been the production and use methane-generated power from landfills such as Miramar and sewage treatment plants, followed by the solar energy investment instituted in 2003, which has earned San Diego the title, "#1 Green Power Purchaser for a municipality in the United States."

At the "Solving Global Warming One City at a Time" event organized by the Sierra Club the day after the signing, members of the community spoke and discussed the issues.

Dr. Wolf Berger of Scripps Institute of Oceanography said that warming of the northern hemisphere is a reality and mentioned a number of dire scenarios having to do with warming of the oceans, such as more hurricanes, more El Ninos, more droughts, a sudden rise in sea level and a drop in ocean productivity, meaning large-scale fish die-off.

"The good news is that there are lots of things we can do to slow global warming," he said. "The bad news is that the good news has been ignored. Instead, discussions have centered on uncertainties in climate prediction and on short-term economic interest in maintaining business-as-usual."

Linda Pratt, Chief of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (OEPS) of the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department reminded everyone that the public has to do its share in conservation, because City services only contribute approximately 3% of the total greenhouse emissions generated in San Diego.

"We are the people we have been waiting for," Pratt said. "Hopefully it this will help people acknowledge that their choices, especially with transportation, energy use, water use and housing can collectively make a big difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Pratt recommends visiting the City's environmental services web site (http://www.sandiego.gov/environmental-services/sustainable/index.shtml/) to find many inspiring ideas on how to live, connect, respect and create more sustainable communities.

To read more about Cool Cities, Mayor Jerry Sanders' statement, and the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, visit the following web sites: