Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP)
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 October 2022, Palo Alto City Council passed an ambitious carbon neutrality by 2030 goal, building on the City's existing goal of cutting emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2030. Currently, the City is in the final stages of updating the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP).
The S/CAP is a comprehensive document laying out the City's strategy to achieve these ambitious carbon reduction goals, while improving our natural environment, adapting to climate impacts, and increasing livability for Palo Alto residents. While reducing emissions is a priority for the City, Palo Alto believes in a comprehensive view of sustainability. The S/CAP addresses seven focus areas: Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste.
Frequently Asked Questions
2020-2023 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Update
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) and most recent Carbon Neutral by 2030 goal. Following delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Palo Alto City Council approved the updated S/CAP Goals and Key Actions in October 2022. The full updated S/CAP will be completed and brought to Council for review in Spring 2023.
Goals and Key Actions
- 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)).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Fourth draft of the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions - Final Version
Staff incorporated guidance from the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee, S/CAP Working Groups, and S/CAP Working Group teams into the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions. Staff refined the goals to make them more consistent across areas, re-organized the Key Actions and grouped them into categories, and finalized the key performance indicators. City Council approved the final version of the goals and key actions in October 2022.
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. Staff is currently working on an update to the Three-Year Work Plan, which we will bring to Council in December 2022.
Co-Benefits and Technical Analysis
- 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/.
- 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.
- 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.
Stakeholder and community engagement is an important part of this process. 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. In October 2022, we hosted a community workshop focused on electrification tools and options for residents.
Read more about S/CAP community engagement
To view the most up to date information on the S/CAP update, visit Sustainability News.
While the City is still working on developing the final S/CAP Report, we are already taking steps to achieve the goals laid out in the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions, including the recently launched Heat Pump Water Heater Program, which makes it easier than ever to switch to a clean electric water heater. We encourage our residents to do the same.
Engage with other residents and share your climate action story at the Sustainability Hub.
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