Even though we have carbon-neutral electricity, have the highest rate of electric vehicle ownership in the nation, and stopped burning sewage sludge, we are still not on target to meet the 80 x 30 goal.
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, 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 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (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 41.9 percent decrease relative to 1990 and 6.1 percent decrease relative to 2019. The full 2020 GHG Inventory can be found in the Palo Alto 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report(PDF, 354KB).
We've achieved our GHG emissions reductions to date through the introduction of carbon neutral electricity in 2013, as well as on-going efficiency measures in both city operations and community resource use that have resulted in declines in natural gas emissions, transportation emissions, and emissions from other sources. It’s far more than what most communities have done.