The City Council adopted the general framework of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) at its meeting on Monday, April 18, which identifies a Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction goal of 80 percent by 2030.
A major focus of the S/CAP is on strategies to reduce reliance on the automobile and solo commuting, since more than half of the remaining GHG emissions needed to reach an "80 by 30" target come from transportation (about 65 percent).
Overall, the plan identifies key tools the City has to achieve GHG reductions including optimizing transit, supporting electric vehicles, providing incentives to change travel modes, and land use policies that support these shifts. The remaining GHG emissions needed to reach “80 by 30” come from efficiency and fuel switching, with a small portion from enhanced Zero Waste initiatives.
The S/CAP also references “mobility as a service” as an integrated approach that shifts from fixed to flexible, on-demand transportation services that use technology to provide convenient, responsive access to multi-modal options such as bike share, first/last mile, rideshare and other services. The downtown Transportation Management Association will help play a key role in scaling up transportation programs to reduce solo commuting.
The Council also asked staff to come back within a few months with an integration process for the S/CAP and the City's Comprehensive Plan, which is in the process of being updated. The Council will also consider for formal adoption the S/CAP Guiding Principles.
“The City continues to be a leader in sustainability, setting high standards and leading by example,” said City Manager Jim Keene. “The S/CAP has outlined what it will take to reach an ambitious goal of 80 percent reduction by 2030, and now comes the challenge of implementing programs and policies to make that goal attainable.”
Palo Alto has made significant progress in reducing its Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) since it first adopted the Climate Protection Plan in 2007, the predecessor to S/CAP.
The City has already far exceeded the 20 percent reduction goal (from 1990 base levels) set out in the initial plan, and in fact, has reduced its GHG emissions by an estimated 36 percent since 1990. Much of the reductions have occurred in the last decade largely through the City's commitment to carbon neutral electricity. Building efficiency measures and more efficient appliances have also contributed.
Over the next 14 years, the City’s GHG emissions are expected to be about 50 percent below the 1990 baseline levels, due to state and federal policies such as new vehicle fuel standards, and existing City initiatives including its Green Building Ordinance and Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. This is in line with the state’s interim 2030 reduction target of 40 percent.
Specific strategies outlined in the plan include expanding the city’s bike network, increasing ridership on transit and Palo Alto’s shuttles, shifting parking incentive programs, and expanding charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
The other largest remaining source of GHG emissions is natural gas use, representing about 25 percent of Palo Alto’s carbon footprint. The vast majority of gas usage comes from existing buildings, with commercial/industrial buildings accounting for about two-thirds of natural gas usage in the City. The S/CAP proposes reductions through energy efficiency and conservation, followed by electrification of water and space heating and cooking where cost effective, and emphasizing all-electric services in “zero net energy” new buildings.
In addition to emissions reductions from transportation and energy/efficiency measures, the S/CAP recommends additional measures that include sustainable water management; resilience adaption and sea level rise; municipal operations, regeneration and the natural environment; utility of the future, community behavior and culture change, information systems and financing strategies for sustainability.
Earth Day Report
The City Council also discussed the annual Earth Day Report at its April 18, 2016 meeting. Highlights from the Earth Day report on more than 150 of the City’s sustainability programs include:
Electric supplies have been 100 percent carbon neutral through generation from hydroelectric and renewable energy resources, and the purchase of renewable energy credits.
Usage declined close to 15 percent in 2015 thanks in part to the warm winter and water conservation efforts.
City and community water use reductions have continued to exceed state-mandated 24 percent potable water use reduction.
Palo Alto is on track to meet its 2021 goal of 90 percent diversion of material from landfills. The Council’s newly adopted Recycling and Composting Ordinance requires commercial customers to properly sort their recyclables and compost materials.
Green building standards:
Palo Alto is ahead of California standards here. Its green building programs have the goal of reducing water and energy use and GHG emissions for permitted buildings by 10 percent over 2015 figures.
Local solar program:
Intended to increase local power generation more than four-fold by 2023.
Transportation and parking programs:
Being developed to reduce single commute trips while “Mobility as a Service” concepts include responsive shuttle services, paid parking and rideshare incentive programs.
Heat pump electric water heater rebate program:
Pilot launched this year as part of the citywide electrification strategy.
Green purchase of goods and services:
A three-year plan (2015-2017) is in effect, and the City is working to implement more efficient copy/print systems.
A voluntary program launched in 2015 that offers residential and commercial customers the opportunity to offset GHG emissions associated with natural gas use. Two percent of residents have already signed on, and the participation rate is expected to double this year.
Download the full draft S/CAP and Earth Day report