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


PRESS RELEASE 04/10/2017
Subject :

Council to Consider Actions Needed to Reach Emissions Reduction Goal
Contact : Claudia Keith, Chief Communications Officer    650/329-2607
Palo Alto, CA – Fewer cars, more electrification, less waste, greener buildings, flood protection, and ways to finance it all are among Key Actions the City Council will consider as new components of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan on the agenda for April 17. Last April, Council voted to adopt a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 80 percent (of 1990 base levels) by 2030 as the goal for the updated plan. 

The next phase includes actions that will be needed to reach that goal. Outlined in what is called the Sustainability Implementation Plan, the SIP is organized into eight different "buckets" and cover what can be accomplished or started over the next three years – to 2020. Included as SIP “buckets” are areas including mobility, energy, zero waste, water, municipal operations, climate adaptation, the natural environment, as well as financing strategies. Staff anticipates that these key actions will reduce GHG emissions by 50 percent (from 1990 base year) by 2020. Palo Alto current emission levels are about 37 percent below 1990 levels.

“With the Council adopting the bold goal of '80 by 30', now the challenging work begins,” said City Manager James Keene. “We know that implementing actions to reach our emissions target is going to take concentrated actions and focus, particularly in the area of mobility. The quickening pace of climate change and the major shifts in economic, behavioral and social adaption that will need to take place are sobering. There are technologies that haven’t even been invented yet that will become part of our sustainable future and we will need to remain responsive and committed.”

With two-thirds of Palo Alto’s emissions coming from transportation sources, expanding the options and incentives not to drive are the overall goals of the mobility actions. Specifics include:
  • Increase the bike boulevard mileage within Palo Alto from 5.6 to 18.7 miles (by 2020)
  • Explore using city vehicles as rideshare vehicles or contracting with a third party for pool car management
  • Prioritize traffic signal timing to reduce GHG emissions as well as travel delays
  • Develop “mobility as a service” including flexible, responsive services, mobile apps and commuter programs

Palo Alto currently has one of the highest electric vehicle ownership levels in the country, and several key actions also include promoting additional EV charger installations and the evaluation of policies to stimulate EV ownership and use.

Some other key actions under consideration include:

Energy: Emissions from natural gas use represent about 29 percent of Palo Alto’s carbon footprint. Palo Alto’s Carbon Neutral Electricity opens the opportunity to reduce natural gas use through electrification in addition to continued efficiency measures. Specific actions include:   
  • Develop higher energy efficiency standards for new & existing buildings
  • Encourage electrification of natural gas appliances
  • Facilitate adoption of electric vehicles and local distributed energy resources such as photovoltaics.

Zero Waste: Reducing the amount of waste discarded in landfills is an important strategy for both GHG reductions and overall sustainability. Palo Alto’s current “diversion rate” is 80 percent with the goal to reach 95 percent diversion of waste from landfills by 2030. Near term key actions include:             
  • Develop effective approaches to recycling of construction and demolition waste
  • Study waste composition and develop new Zero Waste operations plan to identify new programs needed to achieve above goals.

Water Management: Palo Alto has done an outstanding job of meeting annual water use reduction requirements of the current drought. To continue reducing consumption, specific actions include:
  • Develop a local ordinance to facilitate use of non-traditional, non-potable water sources
  • Develop a policy and local ordinance to facilitate water self-sufficient (net zero) construction
  • Investigate delivery of recycled water to other agencies for non-potable use.

Municipal Operations: While City operations accounts for a very small percentage of overall GHG emissions, Palo Alto is leading by example through energy and water use efficiency measures in its facilities such as green purchasing and potential fleet electrification.

Climate Adaptation: Palo Alto will plan for the upcoming changes in the climate by developing a sea level rise policy and plan, strategies to protect key infrastructure and completing the “downstream” San Francisquito Creek flood control projects.

The Natural Environment: The City will adapt canopy and parklands to changing climatic regimes, implement the Urban Forest and Parks Master Plans together, and ensure no net tree canopy loss as actions under this element.

Financing Strategies: Rapidly changing technologies and price fluctuations in energy, transportation and other key sectors will require that financing strategies to implement the S/CAP remain fluid. The actions call for exploring a variety of funding sources, investment opportunities and public/private partnerships as actions to consider. 

To read the staff report and key actions related to the Sustainability Implementation Plans, click here.