News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Palo Alto Earth Day Report Shows Progress, Significant Challenges Ahead
Contact : Claudia Keith, Chief Communications Officer    650/329-2607
Palo Alto, CA – The City of Palo Alto has already surpassed the initial climate protection goal set by the City Council in 2007 (20 percent reduction from 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012), and is now looking to set new goals as part of its updated Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.   As highlighted in the City's latest Earth Day report that will be discussed at the Council’s April 20 meeting, Palo Alto has cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an estimated 32 percent from 2005 levels and 37 percent from 1990 levels.  

California has set the goal of reducing GHG by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and set an aspirational goal to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050.   The Palo Alto report highlights that specific measures to accelerate reductions of GHG emissions from the use of natural gas and a significant reduction in solo car driving will be needed to further reduce carbon emissions, and meet the state’s 80 by 50 goal.  The report also explores even more aggressive timelines.  In addition, California’s worsening drought will require substantial reductions in water consumption and adaptation to other potential impacts of climate change.

"Palo Alto is a global leader in sustainability, and our city is visited regularly by delegations around the world that come here to learn about our innovative approaches, progressive policies and ambitious goals," said City Manager James Keene.  “As we update our sustainability and climate action plan and Council sets new goals, the challenges of ongoing drought, the quickening pace of climate change and the reality that we will need to make major changes in transportation will test us as never before, if we hope to establish a sustainable future.”    

As part of the update to the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, three goal scenarios are being explored:  1)  the State’s aspirational goal of 80 percent reduction by 2050; 2) a more aggressive goal of 80 percent reduction by 2030, and 3) what is called the “California moonshot”, that would be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2025.  The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan will identify a series of roadmaps that consider the technical feasibility, cost, legal, social, economic and behavioral implications of achieving these goals.  

Specifics from the Earth Day report include:

·    City operations:  The overall GHG emissions from City operations show steady declines from vehicle fleets and wastewater treatment facilities with increases in buildings and solid waste facilities.  The increase in emissions corresponds to increases in energy and natural gas consumption in part due to large construction projects and several facilities coming back in service.  It is expected that building improvements will reverse this trend in future years.
·    Combined city and community emissions:  As a result of City of Palo Alto Utilities efficiency programs, combined emissions continue to decline. 
·    GHG emissions from City of Palo Alto Utilities:  CPAU is currently achieving electric “carbon neutrality” through generation from hydroelectric and renewable plants, and by purchasing renewable energy credits to offset the GHG emissions from market power until 2017 when CPAU electricity is expected to be generated entirely from hydroelectric and renewable sources.  It is anticipated that the City would not have to buy renewable energy credits except in the event of shortfalls such as droughts.
·    Water:  Total water consumption has declined 16 percent from 2013 levels and the water utility has already met its long term 20 percent per capita reduction by 2020 goal.  For the immediate future, the state has mandated water use reductions, and Palo Alto will know its final water reduction target in the next few weeks in order to meet the new regulations.      
·    Zero waste:  Palo Alto is on track to meet its 2021 goal of 90 percent diversion of material from landfills.  The diversion rate has been steady at about 80 percent since 2010, but the new residential food scrap collection program set to begin on July 1, 2015 will jump start progress. 

In addition, there are more than 150 sustainability programs across City operations including: 
·    PaloAltoGreen Gas is a voluntary program that offers customers the opportunity to offset residential and commercial natural gas emissions.  Utilities estimates that 10 percent of customers will enroll in the program in its first year.
·    A local solar program intended to increase local power generation more than four-fold by 2023.
·    New Green Building ordinance and Energy Reach code will be on the Council agenda on April 20, and will continue to advance Palo Alto’s green building standards ahead of California. 
·    Further implementation of City procurement purchase program that makes “default” to green the norm.

Palo Alto has also been recognized as a sustainability leader and winner of numerous awards including the most recent by Acterra’s Business Environmental Award, in recognition of the City’s overall approach, commitment and leadership in sustainability.

For more information on the City’s Earth Day report, click here.