County Partners with UC San Diego on Plan to Reach Zero Emissions by 2035

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A thick layer of smog blankets downtown San Diego. Credit whattheschnell/

School of Global Policy and Strategy to draft blueprint for cities throughout the region

By Christine Clark | UC San Diego News

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to direct County staff to work in partnership with the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) on a regional zero-carbon sustainability plan.

The Jan. 27 vote approved the county to contract with the school to draft a plan that would establish a feasible framework for getting San Diego’s carbon emissions to zero by 2035.

The plan will evaluate key sectors including energy, transportation, buildings and land use as well as evaluate the impacts on employment. Approaching decarbonization from the regional perspective, the plan will help policymakers identify opportunities for collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries. 

The blueprint for the region is being developed by GPS’ Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative, which was recently launched to create policy analysis and science-based frameworks for policymakers around the globe including those here in San Diego.

“This partnership is demonstration of GPS’ strengths developing policy analysis with a real-world impact,” said Peter F. Cowhey, dean of GPS. “We seek to provide in-depth knowledge of how international and local governments actually work. In this case, we are shaping an action plan to improve the lives of San Diegans and address the critical need of reducing CO2 emissions.”

The regional plan will be based on a scientifically rigorous pathway to decarbonization that lays out new policies across the highest emitting sectors, which the federal government could also adopt to put the country on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050.

“As San Diego works to become a global leader in decarbonization, a new comprehensive Regional Sustainability Plan can set the County on a path to zero carbon and create a framework for other regions and the country to follow,” said GPS associate teaching professor and Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative director, Gordon McCord.

Drawing on expertise including work on America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan, the Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative will work with County staff and other partners to establish technically feasible pathways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions that cities in the region can embrace.

“The county is doubling down on serious action to address climate change,” said David Victor, professor of industrial innovation at GPS. “Even with the transition in Washington, D.C., our regional leaders recognize durable change requires strong local roots.” 

The new Regional Sustainability Plan earned the support of numerous members of environmental advocacy groups, along with an official from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s office.

For more information on the Sustainable Development Goals Policy Initiative and recent work on America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan, go to the program’s website.

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About author
Christine Clark is assistant director of communications and media relations for the School of Global and Strategy. Christine has been with the campus’ central University Communications office since 2007 and is a UC San Diego alumna. She directs external media relations for the school, sharing the depth and breadth of GPS research and its impacts with broad audiences around the globe. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Christine works with campus leadership and faculty at UC San Diego Health to lead communications efforts for UC San Diego’s Return to Learn program. Follow her on Twitter @christineeclark.
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