Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP)

Palo Alto's goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability, making impressive progress towards reducing its carbon impacts, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and resource consumption. In 2020, Palo Alto emitted an estimated 385,320 metric tons (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, waste, water, and municipal sectors. In comparison to the 1990 base year 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 2017 Scoping Plan Update recommends local government goals of 6 MT C02e per capita by 2030.  

It is important to note, however, that 2020 was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 GHG inventory includes pandemic-related impacts, such as shelter-in place orders and changes in how and where people worked, resulting in emissions reductions that may be temporary. Without the effects of the pandemic, emissions reductions would be closer to a 42 percent decrease relative to 1990 and 6.1 percent decrease relative to 2019, and 6.7 MT CO2e per resident. The full 2020 GHG Inventory can be found in the Palo Alto 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report(PDF, 354KB).

Download: GHG Emissions Reductions Progress(PDF, 95KB)

Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Update

 Acting Now for a Resilient Future

In 2020, the City launched an update to the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) to develop the strategies needed to meet our sustainability goals, including our goal of reducing GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 (the “80 x 30” goal).

City staff proposed goals and key actions in seven areas: Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste. Upon completion of the Impact Analysis(PDF, 377KB), staff updated the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 704KB) to better reflect the outcomes needed to achieve the 80 x 30 goal. The updated S/CAP Goals and Key Actions includes a new Climate Action area. Staff also drafted a Three-Year Work Plan(PDF, 211KB) to map out the actions that can be implemented concurrently while the S/CAP Update is in progress. To learn more about our efforts, visit our Sustainability News page for the latest information.

Stakeholder and community engagement is an important part of this process. We have hosted and will continue to offer various opportunities for engagement, recognizing the challenges of outreach during a pandemic and wildfire crisis. In September 2020, we launched a webinar series to highlight various topics addressed in the S/CAP update. In September 2021, we launched an on-line survey to help inform climate and sustainability conversations taking place with the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee and City Council. Read more about community engagement opportunities, including how to register for future webinars and how to listen to completed webinars.

S/CAP Update Webinars and Ad Hoc Committee Meetings 

S/CAP Update Progress

1. Goals and Key Actions

  1. S/CAP Potential Areas and Priorities(PDF, 194KB)

    City staff proposed priorities in seven areas: Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste, which are summarized in the S/CAP Potential Areas and Priorities(PDF, 194KB) document (More details can be found in Staff Report 10941(PDF, 277KB)).

  2. First draft of the S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 445KB)

    City Staff reviewed the goals and actions in the 2016 S/CAP Framework, the 2018-2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan, the 2018 Zero Waste Plan, the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network GHG Reduction High Impact Practices, and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Game Changers lists to draft S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 445KB) as a starting point for discussion.

  3. Second draft of the S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions, with Feedback Incorporated(PDF, 1MB)

    Staff reviewed all feedback received through April 30, 2020 and incorporated it into updated S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 1MB). These Goals and Key Actions, with feedback from the community incorporated, will be the foundation for the S/CAP update. After additional community feedback and further refinement, the updated Goals and Key Actions will go to our consultant, AECOM, for an impact analysis to estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential of the proposed actions, estimated costs, and additional sustainability co-benefits (such as improved local air quality or reduced cost of living).

  4. Third draft of the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 704KB)

    Upon completion of the impact analysis, staff updated the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 704KB) to better reflect the outcomes needed to achieve the 80 x 30 goal. The updated S/CAP Goals and Key Actions(PDF, 704KB) includes a new Climate Action area, with 8 Key Actions and a goal to reduce GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2030. The Goals and Key Actions in Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles were reworked, but the outcomes are the same. Small changes were made to the Goals and Key Actions in Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste, with one signification change in the addition of Goals and Key Actions addressing wildfire protection.

2. Three-Year Work Plan

The draft Three-Year Work Plan(PDF, 211KB) details the actions reflected in the Policy Framework from the April 19, 2021 Council Meeting (see Attachment A here(PDF, 1MB)), and includes estimates of staff and funding needs for implementation and potential greenhouse gas reductions. These are actions that can be implemented concurrently while the S/CAP Update is in progress. 

3. Co-Benefits and Technical Analysis

  1. S/CAP Draft Co-Benefits

    We solicited feedback from the community to help select co-benefits that can be used in the Key Action evaluation and prioritization process. The draft co-benefits and their definitions are posted at https://www.paloaltosustainabilityplan.com/.

  2. Technical Analysis 

    Staff has devoted extensive analytical and research efforts to estimating the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential of proposed strategies, estimated costs, and additional sustainability co-benefits (such as improved local air quality or reduced cost of living). With technical assistance from the City’s consultant, AECOM, Staff has taken on this extensive analysis because the standard tool that most cities use – the ICLEI ClearPath tool – does not allow for the inclusion of the unique characteristics of Palo Alto (land use patterns, Electric Vehicle adoption rates, etc.) and does not have GHG calculators for the detailed strategies proposed. The preliminary analysis is complete, and can be found in Attachment B of the April 19, 2021 Staff Report 12009(PDF, 1MB) (with additional Attachment D(PDF, 430KB)). Also available are the April 19, 2021 Council Meeting Presentation Slides(PDF, 2MB). A recorded webinar providing an overview of the analysis can be found at the Sustainability Plan YouTube Playlist.

  3. AECOM Impact Action Memo(PDF, 377KB) 

    The City and AECOM collaborated on modeling key action impact results within three categories of GHG reduction actions: Energy, Mobility, and Electric Vehicles. The AECOM Impact Action Memo(PDF, 377KB) presents details on the action impact analysis process, including descriptions of the emissions forecasts, key action analysis results, modeling approach, and detailed action results. It also includes the co-benefits analysis of both the GHG reduction actions and the sustainability actions. The memo concludes with recommendations for next steps and an appendix listing the titles and descriptions for the key actions modeled in this impact analysis.

4. Community Engagement

  1. S/CAP Community Engagement Workshop #1(PDF, 1MB)

    The City hosted a virtual S/CAP Community Engagement Workshop (March 31 - April 14, 2020) to get input on the draft S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions. Staff received feedback from 204 people who participated in the Virtual Workshop. Feedback from the Virtual Workshop, along with all feedback received between January 22 - April 30, 2020, was used to create a Summary of All Input on S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions, and Community Engagement Workshop #1 through April 30 2020(PDF, 531KB).

  2. S/CAP Webinars

    In September 2020, the City launched a webinar series to highlight various topics addressed in the S/CAP update. The S/CAP Community Engagement Page includes webinar recordings, resources and Q&A from completed webinars, and information on how to register for future webinars. Webinar recordings are also available on the Sustainability Playlist of the City’s YouTube Channel. 

  3. Impact Analysis Overview Webinars
    In April 2021, staff prepared a series of webinars explaining the various aspects of the preliminary Impact Analysis. The S/CAP Community Engagement Page includes all seven of the recordings. Webinar recordings are also available on the Sustainability Playlist of the City’s YouTube Channel. 

  4. S/CAP on-line survey
    In September 2021, Staff launched an on-line survey to help inform climate and sustainability conversations taking place with the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee and City Council. The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Update Survey is now closed, but there will be future opportunities to share your input.

5. Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Ad Hoc Committee

The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Ad Hoc Committee was formed by City Council on April 19, 2021 to guide the development, implementation, communication, and future community engagement of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP). This new City Council Ad Hoc committee complements the work of the City Council and Staff on our sustainability and climate action efforts to help finalize the S/CAP.  All Ad Hoc meeting materials are posted here

The S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee formed an S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee Working Group to draw upon the expertise of community members. Working Group members are individuals who commit to attending multiple S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee meetings and to working on discrete projects outside the meetings. The role of the working group is to provide feedback and discussion on proposed policies. 

6. City Council and Commission Meetings

Staff meets regularly with City Council and Commissions to provide S/CAP Update progress reports, discuss policy options and strategies, and seek input on a variety of S/CAP topics.

 

 

 

 

Current S/CAP Components

1. 80 x 30 Goal

80 x 30 Goal

In April 2016, Palo Alto City Council unanimously adopted the goal of 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2030, calculated utilizing the 1990 baseline. This ambitious goal is 20 years ahead of the State of California’s 80 percent by 2050 target (More details can be found in Staff Report 6754(PDF, 7MB)).

2. Framework

Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) Framework(PDF, 3MB)

In November 2016, Palo Alto City Council unanimously adopted the draft Sustainability/Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) Framework(PDF, 3MB), including Goals, Guiding Principles, Decision Criteria, and Design Principles(PDF, 206KB) as the road map for development of subsequent S/CAP Implementation Plans (SIPs) (More details can be found in Staff Report 7304(PDF, 2MB)).

3. 2018-2020 Implementation Plan

2018-2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan(PDF, 907KB)

On December 11, 2017, Palo Alto City Council accepted a 2018-2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan(PDF, 907KB), which focuses on two key S/CAP concerns - CO2 and H2O (Greenhouse Gases and Water) - and four action areas: Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, and Water. (More details can be found in Staff Report 8487(PDF, 2MB)).

The 2018 – 2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan 2019 Snapshot provides a quick overview of the priority SIP projects in progress. Key Actions of the 2018 – 2020 Sustainability Implementation Plan(PDF, 151KB) summarizes the Key Actions in Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, and Water that are proceeding within the 2018-2020 time-frame. The 2018 – 2020 SIP provides a work plan through the end of 2020. When the 2016 S/CAP Framework was adopted by Council, staff anticipated the need to update the S/CAP in 2020. The 2020 S/CAP Update will include the four areas of the 2018 – 2020 SIP and add Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste.

A summary of Sustainability and Climate Action Development can be found on our S/CAP Development 2014-2016 page.

 

Still have Questions?

Visit our S/CAP Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to commonly asked questions.

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If you have questions or feedback, please contact us at sustainability@cityofpaloalto.org.