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San Diego Passes Strongest City-Wide 100% Clean Energy Law in America

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As world leaders return from an historic universal climate agreement in Paris, San Diego has pledged to make major strides in cutting carbon pollution by going all-in on clean energy. Today the city announced it is pledging to get 100 percent of its energy from clean and renewable power with a Climate Action Plan that sets the boldest city-wide clean energy law in the U.S.

With this announcement, San Diego is the largest U.S. city to join the growing trend of cities choosing clean energy. Already, at least 13 U.S. cities, including San Francisco, California; Burlington, Vermont; and Aspen, Colorado, have committed to 100 percent clean energy.

And once again showing that clean energy and climate action isn't just a push from the left: San Diego is led by a Republican Mayor.

“100 percent clean energy is the new standard for climate leadership," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Local leaders know that going all-in on clean energy will create jobs, boost their economies, and protect clean air, water and our climate."

It's true—clean energy has hit its stride—just look at the stats: Solar prices have fallen 80 percent in recent years, and the solar industry now employing nearly twice as many people as the coal mining industry. And it's easy on your wallet: Stanford scientists say the transition to 100 percent renewable energy will save the average American family $260 dollars per year in energy costs and another $1,500 per year in health care costs.

For locals, the decision is a step in the right direction on climate action. "Passing the Climate Action Plan is a historic marker in San Diego's history," said Lindsey Kang, a 17-year-old high schooler in San Diego. “The CAP matters to me and my generation because after so many years of procrastination, it's about time we take initiative to better the world for me and the future generations. The Climate Action Plan will put us on the right track to improving our air and water quality making it possible for us to keep going to our favorite hangout spots around the area."

Kang is active with the local Sierra Club and her high school's environmental club. “My generation cares enough about the changing climate to take their own action," Kang added. "At my school and schools all over San Diego, we have our own environment clubs dedicated to do what we can do to help make the Earth a better place to live in. Passing the CAP will show students that they're not the only ones in this fight and that the future is changing for the better."

Meanwhile, international leaders are committing to clean energy too. Paris, Sydney and Vancouver have all pledged to power their cities with 100 percent clean energy. At the recent Climate Summit for Local Leaders, held in Paris to coincide with the international climate negotiations, 1,000 mayors signed a declaration to “commit collectively to support ambitious long-term climate goals such as a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in our communities."

During that summit, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo stated, “Mayors of the world are ready for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050."

As 100 percent clean energy becomes the new international standard for climate action, San Diego has become the first city in America to take this ambitious and achievable step with a legally-binding commitment. I can't wait to see all the other U.S. cities who decide to go 100 percent in the coming months and years.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

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Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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