Escondido council member says climate change isn’t the city’s top priority

The range of opinions on climate change among Escondido residents was revealed with stark relief last week during a progress report on Escondido’s climate action plan that was provided to council. municipal.

On one side of the issue were those who see climate change as a serious threat to human health and well-being, while on the other side were those who argue the city is in trouble. more urgent to deal with.

“I’ve read a lot of books about the climate crisis and climate change and they all say the same thing. We need to stop the shows and are running out of time,” Laura Hunter said as she and other speakers urged council to move forward with enactment of the city’s climate action plan. “The (UN) secretary says delay means death. It’s now or never.”

But councilman Mike Morasco said many city residents don’t see climate change as the city’s top priority.

“I salute the passionate minority … who feel so passionate about this. I salute you for your efforts, but there are many others who don’t place this as their top priority, for what we need to do with the city dollars we have,” Morasco said.

“I feel bad for young people who have been brainwashed into feeling that their lives are in danger. I don’t look at it like the sky is falling,” Morasco said. “I have lived here for a long time. We are a green and beautiful city.

Morasco said the city is obligated to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, but does not have the money to go beyond those requirements.

“We’re going to do everything we can, but we’re not going to break the bank on this particular issue because we have more important things that we need to sort out first,” Morasco said.

In a presentation to council, lead planner Veronica Morones said the city has implemented several key provisions of its climate plan over the past year, including joining the Clean Energy Alliance, a multi-city partnership. of North County which aims to provide cheaper and cleaner electricity to its members.

Joining the CEA, a community-based energy program of choice, potentially offers the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions among the measures in Escondido’s climate action plan, which was adopted in 2013 and updated the last year, Morones said.

Other achievements, she said, include launching an organic waste recycling program and replacing more than 1,000 streetlights with energy-saving LED lights. Together, the city’s actions will reduce Escondido’s carbon emissions by 6 metric tons between 2020 and 2021, Morones said.

Residents urged council to take additional action in the coming years, such as creating an urban forest plan and planting more trees, reducing the availability of single-use plastics and creating a climate change commission to help the city achieve its goals.

Anna Marie Velasco told the council that planting more trees can help the city meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals because trees naturally remove and store carbon from the air.

“It would be a huge impact on our environment,” Velasco said. “Trees really are our best partner in the fight against the climate crisis.”

Morasco said he’s fine with the city using grant money to provide trees for residents who want them, but he would be reluctant to use city staff to plant trees or install water systems. irrigation. He also said the goal of planting many new trees is at odds with national and local water conservation efforts.

“We have this dichotomy where we’re being asked to reduce water use and consumption, at the same time we’re saying we’re going to reforest all of Escondido,” he said.

Members of the public also urged the council to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics, such as utensils and containers used by restaurants, pointing to similar ordinances passed by other North County towns.

Carlsbad City Council last week passed a law requiring restaurants to provide plastic cutlery and condiment packets only upon request, and that food must be packaged in reusable or compostable containers. Vista, San Marcos and Solana Beach have approved similar ordinances in recent years. Oceanside, Encinitas, Del Mar and San Diego have stopped distributing single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and most retail outlets.

Mayor Paul McNamara said the measures passed unanimously, with bipartisan support in other cities. The measures are “not so drastic, they are not trying to change everything overnight, but they are a starting point”. McNamara asked city staff to report on steps other local cities have taken to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics.

As for the goal of planting more trees, council member Consuelo Martinez said the city will celebrate Arbor Day on April 30 by planting 100 trees along Mission Avenue between Rose Street and Midway. Volunteers are needed to help with planting. For more information, visit www.volunteer.escondido.org.