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How San Diego Will Hold Up Its Green Transition Promise


San Diego has made a commitment to using only renewable energy. And it's the first major American city to make that pledge legally binding. San Diego's City Council voted on the measure last week, which also requires the city to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2035. San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer joins us now on the line to talk about the city's plan. Thanks so much for being with us Mr. Mayor.

KEVIN FAULCONER: Great to talk to you. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Practically speaking, how are you going to make this change?

FAULCONER: Well, we're going to lead by example from the city as, for example, we're going to be converting our city's fleet to electrical vehicles. We're going to be converting 100 percent of our city trash trucks to natural gas by 2035. We're going to be recycling 98 percent of methane from our wastewater treatment by 2035. So as a city, we are going to continue to lead. And when it comes to our residents and others, giving them opportunities not only for choice but for solar installation. We're going to have a very substantive traffic lights and street lights that we're changing to prevent less cars from idling. So we think it's a combination of multiple factors that will get us to that goal. And I'm committed that this city will achieve it.

MARTIN: What does that mean for utility companies? What responsibility do they have in all this?

FAULCONER: Our local utility provider, SDG&E, has been a real leader in terms of renewable energy. Right now they have about 35 percent of the energy that they are delivering is from renewable sources. And I believe in two years it's going to be up to 40 percent. That's the exact type of trend line that we want to see. And one of the...

MARTIN: So are you going to make that punitive if the utility can't get to 100 percent renewable by 2035? Do they have to pay a fine?

FAULCONER: You know, it's actually been quite the opposite. The utility's been working with us in terms of, you know, wanting to make sure that they are hitting targets that they can do. You know, we're preventing...

MARTIN: But that's the goal. The utilities should be able to be 100 percent renewable by 2035.

FAULCONER: Our goal is that our city will be 100 percent renewable. And so we'll be looking at energy sources from a variety of different - the utility will be one part of that, but we'll also have the ability to, as I said before, with increase on solar and a variety of other things, that, you know, it's been a partnership. You know, we saw this week when we got that support - and that unanimous support - not only support from our business community but from our local utility, but also the strong leadership of environmental groups that from the very beginning realized that we're all in this together and that for this plan to actually be adopted and to be implemented, it's going to take everybody working together.

MARTIN: It is notable that this was passed unanimously. How did you make the case? Was it a difficult case to make?

FAULCONER: It don't think it really was because, you know, my style is always - it's not about partisanship or anything like that. It's what's the right thing that we should be doing in San Diego? And showing that we're having increased economic development while we are reducing our GHG emissions, people get that. They understand that. And when we look at our innovation economy here in San Diego, the tremendous growth of that - you know, the tremendous growth in our clean tech sector - I think there's - not only there's a lot of optimism that we're going to be able to achieve these targets, but there's also a sense of pride that San Diego is going to really lead this, not only for the state of California but for the entire nation.

MARTIN: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, thanks so much for talking with us.

FAULCONER: Rachel, my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.