The San Diego City Council voted Monday to tell Mayor Faulconer what they want to be in the Climate Action Plan he’s expected to release before the end of the month.
There’s nothing binding about the Council’s vote. Faulconer can still release whatever he pleases.
But the Council Democrats who voted in favor of the measure — all three Republicans voted against it —did so to drive home one point: The plan’s long-term targets for greenhouse gas reductions should be legally binding , not some soft goal.
Faulconer’s office has said many times it would release a plan before the end of the month, after a previous draft had been passed through the city’s departments for additional comment.
That’s why the Republican Council members seemed to find the whole thing silly.
“This is meaningless,” said Councilman Mark Kersey.
“There’s a lot of politics being played with this issue,” said Councilman Scott Sherman.
Council President Todd Gloria, though, said the vote was perfectly consistent with the Council’s role as the city’s legislative body.
“It would make no sense to have the mayor propose a climate action plan that this Council can’t support,” he said.
After its release, Faulconer’s draft and a range of alternatives will go through the months-long process of a state-mandated environmental review.
Eventually the Council will vote on a final version of the plan, but it’ll only be able to choose from elements included in the environmental review.
That’s why the Council’s Democrats are so adamant about getting Faulconer’s draft to include legally binding reduction targets. If those targets aren’t included in environmental review, that’ll be the end of it as an option for the city.
The Council is so keen on legally enforceable targets because it would mean the city will be on the hook for pursuing courses that would meet those reductions.
For instance, the plan includes a target for city residents and businesses to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. If the plan’s emission reduction goals are legally enforceable, the City Council could decide it needs to be in control of its renewable energy share, rather than leaving that to San Diego Gas & Electric. To do that, it would need to set up a community choice aggregator  (CCA), which would let it, rather than SDG&E to purchase the city’s energy.
SDG&E would still deliver the energy, but the city’s new CCA would decide which types of power to buy. Then it would offer residents a choice in packages of power.
One package could be composed of one-third renewable sources, for instance, while another is 50 percent or 100 percent renewable. The one with more would be more expensive, but residents would have the choice.