Sustainability Goals and Progress
Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability and climate action, and the City's ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals are part of what sets us apart. Since the City's first Climate Protection Plan passed in 2007, Palo Alto has set goals that exceed State and Federal targets. Today, the City's goal to reduce emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2030 (the "80x30" goal) and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 guide sustainability efforts.
Following action at the state level to set emissions reduction targets, in 2016 the City Council adopted an emissions reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This science-based target represents our fair share of the global emissions reductions required to halve emissions by 2030, to reach global net zero by 2050, and to limit global warming 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Carbon Neutrality Goal
In October 2022 Council adopted an ambitious carbon neutral by 2030 goal to build on existing the emissions reduction goals. Carbon neutrality means taking steps to achieve net zero emissions by reducing the amount of GHGs emitted then "offsetting" an equivalent amount of any remaining emissions using carbon removal methods, such as new forest growth. For Palo Alto, this means continuing to reduce our emissions to at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and offsetting remaining emissions.
Progress Towards Meeting These Goals
In 2020, Palo Alto emitted an estimated 385,320 metric tons (MT) or carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, waste, water, and municipal sectors. In comparison to the 1990 base year emissions of 780,119 MT CO2e, that is a 50.6 percent decrease in total community emissions, despite a population increase of 21.8 percent during that same time period. This equates to 5.7 MT CO2e per Palo Alto resident in 2020 compared to 14 MT CO2e per Palo Alto resident in 1990. The California Air Resources Board's (CARB) 2017 Scoping Plan Update recommends local governments achieve a goal of 6 MT CO2e per capita by 2030. Palo Alto met this goal in 2020, ten years prior to CARB's recommended target, but is still work needed to achieve the City's ambitious emissions reduction goals.
View the full 2020 GHG inventory.
For more infographics illustrating our sustainability progress, visit the Sustainability Hub.
Explore Sustainability Progress and Accomplishments
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