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Palo Alto aims to Reduce Emissions

Palo Alto has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 36 percent since 1990. Palo Alto City Council has begun putting together the framework of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) which aims to both create a more eco-friendly community and inspire other cities to transition into a more environmentally friendly place.

With discussions regarding climate change, resource efficiency, and other topics worldwide, the city of Palo Alto seeks to transition into a greener community City officials plan to do so in partnership with Palo Alto’s first-ever sustainability officer Gil Friend, who was appointed three years ago by the city council.

“The plan is obviously broader than climate,” Friend said. “We are here to talk about creating the kind of future that we want, which includes a healthier, safer and more sustainable community.”

On Nov. 28, City Council adjourned and discussed the S/CAP. The meeting was meant to be centered around building up S/CAP. Other topics discussed included decision criteria, guiding principles and design principles for the development of the subsequent S/CAP implementation plans.

“The purpose of the S/CAP is to do our part as a city where the leading edges around the world and to meet the global climate challenge and to do as we have done many time over the past decade, to lead by example,” Friend said when debriefing at the meeting.

The main goal of the S/CAP is to reduce 30 percent of the annual carbon emissions by 2030, otherwise known as the “80 by 30 goal.” Palo Alto has started moving towards this benchmark; seven teams have been formed to aid in implementing key S/CAP sections such as mobility efficiency in electrification, water, zero-waste, municipal operations, natural environment and sea level rise.

Last April brought the draft of the 80 by 30 gas reduction goal. According to Friend, the S/CAP depends on a few key success factors — having strong and directional goals, having clear principles and criteria to guide staff and building flexible platforms.

At the council meeting, Friend mentioned that S/CAP aims to have a timely and transparent performance tracking which will be available to the public. However, this raises concerns regarding the methods that Palo Alto can use to regulate the S/CAP. As a result, the city will be keeping an eye on the GHG levels and other indicators which will help guide decisions in the future.

The S/CAP will ultimately rely on a few “core moves.” Firstly, S/CAP needs to reduce resource use by, for example, taking energy efficient measures. Secondly, the plan will require the city to shift the way resources are affecting our community which could be done through electrification. The final core move would be transforming systems, by potentially outcompeting single occupancy driving with mobility services such as buses.

Palo Alto, being one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the nation, hopes to lead by example and inspire others to help transition the world into a more sustainable and eco-friendly planet.

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