Palo Alto, CA Climate Protection Plan

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Palo Alto, CA, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted on 12/3/07

Source File:


The entire plan encompasses a 114 page document. Shown below is the Executive Summary. Refer to the source file to view or download the plan in its entirety.

Global warming is nearly universally recognized by scientists, and much of the public, as one of the most important threats facing human civilization, and political stability. This rise in temperatures has major implications for transboundary migration, economic prosperity, and the future of human development. Locally, the effects of climate change are likely to reduce the availability of hydro generated electricity, increase the incidence of forest fires, and lead to a rise in the level of San Francisco Bay that would impact Palo Alto’s shoreline.

The Climate Protection Plan (CPP) continues a process, of which the Green Ribbon Task Force (GRTF) recommendations were an earlier step, through which the City government and the community are working together to reduce significantly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A cross reference between the GRTF recommendations and those of the CPP are summarized at the end of each chapter and presented in-full in Appendix I.

The goal of the CPP is to present a comprehensive inventory of municipal (City government-generated) and community-generated emissions, propose reduction targets, and propose practical steps to reach those targets.

Setting Emission Reduction Goals
The CPP sets out goals for the reduction of CO2 emissions from the City and the Community. These goals are:

Short Term Goal: By 2009 the City will reduce emissions by 5% from 2005 emission levels for a total reduction of 3,266 metric tons of CO2.
Medium Term Goal: By 2012 the City and Community will reduce emissions by 5% from 2005 emissions levels for a total reduction of 39,702 metric tons of CO2.
Long Term Goal: By 2020, the City and Community will reduce emissions by 15% of 2005 levels, equal to 119,140 metric tons of CO2, and bring the community in line with State reduction goals.

Cost Benefit Analysis and Budget Implications
The CPP begins the process of estimating the costs of potential actions, some of which would be borne by the City, and others of which would be borne by the end user or community.

The cost benefit analyses here should be considered as preliminary only. Additional, more detailed financial analyses should be carried out before many of the actions listed here are implemented. Furthermore, additional funding is required for many of the actions recommended in this report. Any actions deemed by Council worth expending City funds would be integrated into the 2008-10 budget process in spring 2008.

The table at the end of this Executive Summary lists all of the proposed actions in this report, broken out by those requiring no additional funding, and those requiring additional funding and/or additional analysis of funding needs.

Structure of the Report
This report contains eight chapters:

  • Chapter 1 is the Introduction.
  • Chapter 2 discusses the baseline inventory of City and community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and proposes an overall goal of reducing communitywide emissions by 15% below 2005 levels by 2020.
  • Chapter 3 covers the wide array of emission-reducing Utility programs.
  • Chapter 4 describes the Sustainable Purchasing portion of the Plan.
  • Chapter 5 discusses Transportation and Sustainable Land Use.
  • Chapter 6 covers Green Building.
  • Chapter 7 discusses Zero Waste, and
  • Chapter 8 on Education proposes strategies for enlisting City employees and the Palo Alto community in carbon-reduction efforts.

In each chapter, the subject area is introduced, baseline emissions quantified where possible, and then goals and actions laid out for Short-Term (2008), Medium-Term (2009-2011), and Long- Term (2012-2020) time frames. At the end of each chapter, the GRTF recommendations for that section are laid out in table format, side-by-side with the recommendations contained in that chapter, with comments regarding differences between the two sets of recommendations. Appendix 1 lists the entire 250 recommendations of the GRTF and correlates them where possible with the proposed actions of the CPP.

This document primarily assumes a forward-looking vantage point. While several activities throughout the City are already underway to achieve Council policy goals that overlap with climate protection issues, this report attempts to identify the costs and benefits of those activities as they apply to greenhouse gases. It also focuses on the continuation of those activities as well as the introduction of new activities for reducing GHG emissions.

Key Findings
Emissions within Palo Alto are estimated at 814,254 metric tons per year. The CPP presents a number of possible actions to consider implementing to meet the City’s emission reduction goals. The three primary sources of emissions from Palo Alto are as follows:

Transportation Fuels: Commute emissions, plus other non-commute driving and Air Travel accounts for 333,400 metric tons of CO2e or 40% of total emissions.
Energy: Natural Gas and Electricity use accounts for 155,016 metric tons of CO2e or 19% of total emissions
Solid Waste: Emissions from Solid Waste account for 100,304 metric tons of CO2e or 14% of total emissions.

A variety of possible actions to reduce these emissions are presented in this report. These actions fall into three categories:

Short Term Actions. These are actions that the City should undertake as soon as possible, for completion by July 2009. Generally these actions cost little or no additional funds, are part of existing programs, or can be accomplished with relatively modest effort on the part of staff. For the most part, these actions do not achieve significant declines in emission levels.
Medium Term Actions. These are actions that the City should aim to complete by 2011. With a few exceptions these actions entail moderate marginal cost. Some actions may require a new program for implementation, and most may be accomplished with a modicum of additional staff, resources and/or community effort.
Long Term Actions. These are actions that will require substantial additional resources, considerable staff effort, and substantive community involvement to be effective.

A complete list of proposed actions, and their costs and benefits where known, is included in Appendix II.