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San Diego's Republican Mayor is not blind to climate change

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is not conservative when it comes to the environment.
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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) is no stranger to getting out there in the public and helping out the environment. Whether it’s filling potholes or going on a waste management route with city workers to collect yard clippings, he is passionate about keeping the city clean.

So it may not come as a surprise that he would like to see San Diego run on renewable power by the year 2035.

Late last year The City Council unanimously approved his plan to make San Diego the leader in environmental policy, while keeping citizens happy and creating more green jobs.

“We are a city where the quality of the environment is essential to our quality of life,” he told councilmembers in December 2015.

This may sound like a non-conservative attitude. The current GOP presidential candidates are taking a stance against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, wanting to reverse it should they get elected.

Jeb Bush was the only Republican candidate who said climate change was partly the fault of human interference, but even he does nothing to really change it.  

However, Mayor Faulconer, a Republican himself, is doing something about it in his city. San Diego, the country’s eighth largest, could be at the forefront of environmental innovations.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” Faulconer said in an interview with The Guardian. “I’ve said from the very beginning there’s enough partisan politics at the national level. I was a volunteer for our parks before becoming mayor; I love our natural resources, our beaches and landscapes. I feel strongly about protecting them.”

Some in his party, including senator Rubio, think that cutting emissions would raise energy costs and therefore put a strain on the country’s economy.

Mayor Faulconer not only figured out a plan for low carbon innovation, he is also making strides for San Diego to have cleaner air and more jobs.

“I pride myself on being fiscally responsible and environmentally conscious,” he said. “The two aren’t exclusive. I’ve never seen it as a zero sum game. We want a plan that is ambitious and leads the way for the rest of the country.”

San Diego ranks second in electrical output from solar energy. It already gets 40% of its power from clean sources. The city is also actively looking for green companies to make San Diego their permanent home.  

Nicole Capretz, who penned the first concept of the proposal, says that people are seeing things such as drought, wildfires and flooding happening around them so they want to secure a better quality of life going into the future. 

“The beautiful part about having a Republican mayor embrace this plan,” she told The Guardian, “is that he did outreach to his own friends and factions and persuaded them it was the right thing to do for economic reasons.”

Mayor Faulconer’s plan still needs a few things in order to be implemented, mostly due to a hitch in the electricity market. The city’s utility department says they won’t be able to reach the 100% renewable goal on their own.

The city will need to find another place to source some of its power, but retain control over utility lines.

“There’s a battle brewing on that,” Capretz said. “It’s the largest part of the climate plan – we can’t get to the goal without it.”

However, the decarbonizing plan is legally binding and other changes should be easier to achieve such as more trees for less carbon, and cooler air.

Bicycle initiatives and public transit improvements are also being accomplished.

Environmental awareness is gaining momentum in several countries around the world, but they are not laying down plans of action in their cities to avoid eco-disasters. Mayor Faulconer is watchful and one-step ahead of them. 

“Cities are leading the federal government, yes,” he said. “They are leading on innovation and policy. The technology is advancing incredibly quickly. We need to have our eyes wide open on this.”