County of San Diego


The County of San Diego has jurisdiction over the unincorporated areas within the county which are generally east and north of the City of San Diego, noted in dark grey on the map. The unincorporated area encompasses approximately 3,570 square miles with a population of 454,599 residents. The unincorporated area is home to 26 distinct communities that vary from suburban densities adjacent to incorporated cities (i.e. Lakeside, Spring Valley, and Sweetwater), to low density rural communities (i.e. Borrego Springs, Descano, and Pine Valley) surrounded by hillsides, deserts, and agricultural lands. The unincorporated county's most developed communities are located along the unincorporated county's westernmost boundaries where access to public facilities such as water, sewer, roads, and schools is readily available. 

Unincorporated lands are biologically rich and diverse, and are comprised of natural features that include lagoons, foothills, mountain ranges, and deserts. Large federal, state, and regional parklands cover much of the eastern portion of the county. Tribal lands comprise 5.7% of the land area and agricultural lands account for a large proportion of the privately-owned lands. 


In response to a June 12, 2020 Court of Appeal ruling, the County will be revising its 2018 Climate Action Plan (CAP) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) but will continue implementing sustainability measures to effectively reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) as part of its ongoing commitment to the environment. The court ruling struck down part of the CAP’s EIR but did not find fault with its 26 GHG reduction measures. To address the court ruling, the CAP and EIR will be revised in partnership with residents, and business and environmental groups.

On February 14, 2018, the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors adopted the County's Climate Action Plan. The CAP is a plan that identifies strategies and measures to reduce the County's contribution of GHG emissions to the atmosphere to meet the State's 2020 and 2030 GHG emissions targets, and to demonstrate progress towards the 2050 GHG reduction goal. The CAP was prepared in coordination with top climate planning and environmental experts that included Ascent Environmental and the Energy Policy Initiatives Center, a non-profit research center of the University of San Diego School of Law. These industry experts have worked on dozens of CAPs in California and regularly coordinate with jurisdictions on methods to implement state GHG legislation.

The CAP builds upon the 2011 San Diego County General Plan, which shifted growth capacity from the eastern backcountry areas to western communities. The 2011 General Plan includes goals and policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions including growing in a compact and efficient manner, using energy more efficiently, harnessing renewable energy to power buildings, improving waste recycling, and improving access to sustainable transportation. The CAP identifies 11 strategies and 26 measures plus numerous supporting efforts to reduce GHG emissions in the largely rural, unincorporated San Diego County as well as within County government operations. The CAP's strategies and measures are designed to reduce GHG emissions and achieve multiple secondary benefits including energy and water conservation, cleaner air, community health, biological resource conservation, cost savings, and job creation. CAP strategies and measures were selected based upon a review of potential available measures, their effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions, and their applicability to the unincorporated area. Measures were ultimately selected based upon evidence of their feasibility and effectiveness to achieve the projected GHG emissions reductions. Appendix C of the CAP provides additional information related to the anticipated GHG reductions associated with each CAP measure. For measures that are identified as County initiatives, County departments are responsible for implementing, evaluating, and monitoring results regularly. For measures that are identified with new development, project submittals are required to demonstrate compliance with the CAP Consistency Review Checklist.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory
The framework for the CAP is the GHG emissions inventory. The baseline year for the adopted CAP is 2014 because it is the year for which complete data was available when the CAP was being prepared. The CAP inventory estimates the GHG emissions associated with County facilities and operations that occur (no matter where the facilities are located). The types of activities that cause GHG emissions to occur and are included in the inventory are generally related to transportation (i.e. passenger cars, light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks, buses, etc.); electricity and natural gas consumption; solid waste generation; agricultural activities; water conveyance, treatment and consumption; the use of small industrial equipment (i.e. lawn and garden, construction, mining, light commercial equipment, etc.); and wastewater treatment. 

The inventory uses the GHG emissions data to create projections for emissions in 2020 and 2030. From this information GHG emissions targets were created based upon the State's GHG reduction targets. As a result, the County's GHG emissions targets are:

  • 2020: 3,147,275 MTCO2e
  • 2030: 1,926,903 MTCO2e

CAP Implementation

The CAP measures that were selected are feasible, enforceable, measurable, and achievable. The measures are categorized within the following GHG emission sectors: Built Environment & TransportationEnergySolid WasteWater and Wastewater, and Agriculture and Conservation. The types of measures included in the CAP are typical of best practices in climate action planning and rely on energy and water conservation, increasing the availability of renewable energy, planning for alternative and cleaner transportation options, preservation and conservation of agricultural and biologically valuable lands, and increased solid waste diversion.

The CAP also contains stringent monitoring and reporting requirements in order to communicate progress regularly and transparently. The Annual Monitoring Report is produced in July and reports on CAP measure implementation progress. Biennial GHG emissions inventories will be prepared to allow for updates in technology and transportation modeling. The CAP will also be updated every five years to allow for adaptation as new programs and technology become available to accommodate legislative changes, and to allow for course correction in the event of underperforming measures.



The County's Climate Action Plan is aligned with and builds upon many other County efforts through complementary implementation-focused actions.

Want to know more about the Climate Action Plan and how to get involved? Check out this slideshow!