Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability, making impressive - and in some cases remarkable - progress toward reducing its carbon impacts, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource consumption since establishing its first Climate Protection Plan in 2007. In early 2020, we launched an update to the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) along with an S/CAP Webinar Series. In April 2021, City Council formed the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee to guide the development, implementation, communication, and future community engagement of the S/CAP. In October 2022, City Council accepted the proposed S/CAP Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 760KB), and adopted a goal to make the City carbon neutral by 2030. 

Since 2000, when the City adopted a Sustainability Policy, we have undertaken a wide range of initiatives to improve the sustainability performance of both government operations and the community at large, including:

  • Approving an ambitious goal of achieving an 80% reduction in Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) below 1990 levels by 2030, a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Framework in 2016 and a 2018-2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan in 2017
  • Offering a wide variety of programs, incentives, and rebates that may help you take action to enhance your own sustainability efforts. 

Sustainability Programs

The City encourages the community to consider home electrification, by shifting away from carbon-based fuels to electricity for space and water heating, transportation, and cooking. Switching to electric is better for your health, your wallet, and the environment. Be a part of the community for change by upgrading your water heater. Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) use electricity to move heat from one place to another rather than generating their own heat, like a refrigerator working in reverse. The City now offers a full service solution to install a heat pump water heater in your home that includes a $2,300 rebate, making it easier than ever to switch to electric!

Switch to an Electric Water Heater Today!

Sustainability Focus Areas


We encourage residents and businesses to consider electrification, a shift from fossil fuels to electricity for space and water heating, transportation and cooking. The City of Palo Alto Utilities’ electricity is sourced from renewable and hydroelectric resources, but natural gas is a fossil fuel that will always produce greenhouse gas emissions. In Palo Alto, an all-electric lifestyle is cleaner and healthier than using fossil fuels, and can also be more affordable.

Learn more about Energy in Palo Alto


Road transportation represents the largest percentage of Palo Alto’s existing carbon footprint – and a congestion headache! Reducing emissions from the transportation sector requires addressing three things:

  1. Reducing the carbon intensity of fuels
  2. Increasing vehicle efficiency
  3. Reducing vehicle miles travelled (VMT)

Learn more about Mobility

Electric Vehicles

The City of Palo Alto encourages the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) as part of our progress towards becoming one of the greenest cities in the country. Our city ranks as one of the top in the nation to embrace this clean technology. EVs now account for more than 30% of new car sales in Palo Alto- the highest adoption rate in the country. Driving and charging an EV in Palo Alto especially makes sense given the City's carbon neutral electricity supply and low electric retail rates.

Learn more about Electric Vehicles


Water is a limited resource in California, and its availability will be further impacted by climate change and new environmental regulations. With shifting climate patterns, and significant long-term water supply uncertainty, it makes sense to reduce water consumption while exploring ways to capture and store water, as well as to increase the availability and use of recycled water.

Learn more about Water

Climate Adaptation

Climate adaptation refers to the actions taken to improve a community’s resilience when confronted with the impacts of climate change. Actions that reduce the net amount of greenhouse gas emissions are emissions reductions or climate mitigation. Climate adaptation planning is most effective at the local level.

Learn more about Climate Adaptation

Natural Environment

Sustainability is not only about mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, but also regeneration – identifying opportunities for renewal, restoration, carbon sequestration, and growth of our natural environment. Palo Alto will continue to build and restore the natural environment and its ecosystem services and bio-capacity that supports it, including soils, tree canopy, biodiversity, and other components. 

Learn more about the Natural Environment

Zero Waste

Zero Waste is sustainable materials management – seeking to eliminate waste wherever possible first and foremost, and then managing the discards we do have through reuse and recycling/composting.

Learn more about Zero Waste