Palo Alto has long been a leader in sustainability and continues to make significant progress toward achieving its Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction goal of 80 percent (from 1990 levels) by the year 2030, as highlighted in the latest Earth Day report going to the City Council on April 15. The Council has made Climate Change one of their priorities for 2019.
In 2018, Palo Alto reduced GHG emissions an estimated 56.5 percent, reaching approximately two-thirds of its 2030 goal. The 2018 reduction of 13 percent is due mostly to reductions in natural gas emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets through PaloAltoGreenGas.
This year’s Earth Day Report is organized around key elements in the 2018-2020 Sustainability Implementation Programs previously adopted by the Council including energy, mobility, electric vehicles and water. Specifics from the Earth Day report include:
- Energy: The City has established targets for electric and gas efficiency savings, and as one measure, tracks “avoided” use of natural gas as a result of electrification programs. Preliminary figures show that in FY 2018, the reported Electric Efficiency savings was 5,957 MWh or .63 percent of the City’s total electric use. This is equivalent to the total power used by 946 California homes in a year. The reported FY 18 Gas Efficiency savings was 251,718 therms or .97 therms of the City’s total gas use. The avoided GHG emissions from the gas efficiency savings is equivalent to taking 290 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.
- Mobility: Solo driving commute trips to downtown Palo Alto continue to decline with drive alone trips decreasing by eight percent since 2015. The Palo Alto Downtown Caltrain station has the second highest average weekday ridership after San Francisco’s Fourth and King.
- Electric Vehicles: There are approximately 4,000 electric vehicles (EVs) or six percent penetration registered in the City. This displaces approximately 9,600 MT CO2e per year. It is estimated that one in seven homes in Palo Alto has an EV with one in three new vehicles (29 percent) in the community being an EV.
- Water: Per capita water use increased over the past year due to the easing of state-mandated water use reductions, but overall the percentage of recycled water capacity increased two percent.
In addition to these four areas, when the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan is updated in 2020, it will also include actions on climate adaptation and sea level rise, natural environment and zero waste. A snapshot of 2018 accomplishments in these areas include:
- Sea Level Rise: Staff’s work in 2018 included a draft sea level rise adaptation policy that Council heard on March 18. Staff has also provided comments on new levee improvements as part of the regional SAFER project (Strategy to Advance Flood Protection, Ecosystems and Recreation along SF Bay), completed a concept design for a horizontal levee and completed a Baylands Vulnerability Assessment.
- Natural Environment: Record tree planting and pruning contributed to an increase in the value of benefits produced by 36,000 public trees to nearly $18 million annually. The Palo Alto Golf Course renovation was finished in 2018 with a 40 percent reduction (53.7 acres) in irrigated turf grass on the renovated course, and the use of a new type of grass that allows for almost 100 percent recycled water irrigation.
- Zero Waste: The City’s diversion rate of waste has increased by 18 percent over the past decade to 80 percent. The City Council adopted a new Zero Waste Plan last year, and staff also drafted a construction-related waste policy requiring deconstruction and salvage; a formal enforcement program with active engagement of commercial customers who are not sorting refuse correctly and a multi-year foodware packaging plan to reduce single-use plastics.
The City will highlight the importance of sustainability and climate action as part of the Great Race for Saving Water and Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 13 at the Palo Alto Baylands Athletic Center starting at 9 a.m. For more information, go here.