Climate Action Blog: Major Milestone Achieved Advancing Sustainability & Climate Action Roadmap

City of Palo Alto
Published in
5 min readJun 8, 2023


This week, a major step was achieved in advancing the City’s sustainability and climate action goals. Thank you to community members, stakeholders, and partners involved in the last several years of discussions to develop the City’s updated roadmap to advance sustainability and climate action. This blog shares more about the importance of the Council’s adoption of the updated Sustainability and Climate Action plan, what this means, and ways the community can connect into the work ahead. We can all make a difference for a more sustainable future.

The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) was adopted at the June 5 City Council meeting. The S/CAP is a roadmap to reduce the City’s and community’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while also guiding land and natural resource use to ensure quality of life for future generations. Read on to learn about the S/CAP and its development, and next steps.

What’s Next?

S/CAP implementation is already underway, with initiatives like the Heat Pump Water Heater pilot program and completion of the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment.

Staff will continue to implement the key actions in the S/CAP, following the outline set forth in the 2023–2025 S/CAP Workplan.

Upcoming Climate Action priorities include:

  • completing a grid modernization plan
  • building community awareness and confidence in electrification
  • identifying funding sources

Sustainability priorities include:

  • increasing tree canopy
  • minimizing pesticide use
  • encouraging food waste reduction
  • completing a multi-year Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan

Gain updates as we advance this work! Sign up to receive the monthly Sustainability Newsletter here.

What did the Council review on June 5?

1. Sustainability and Climate Action Plan

The S/CAP serves as the roadmap to reduce emissions and achieve our sustainability goals. The S/CAP report represents a collaboration between City of Palo Alto staff, the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee, and the Palo Alto community.

2. CEQA Review of the S/CAP

CEQA certification of the S/CAP, in the form of an addendum to the Environmental Impact Report for the City’s Comprehensive Plan, ensures that future development and planning activities within the City conform to the objectives of the S/CAP and statewide climate legislation.

3. 2023–2025 S/CAP Workplan

The 2023–2025 S/CAP Workplan expands on the S/CAP key actions to guide staff on implementation priorities over the next three years and breaks up the work into two sections. The Climate Action section of the workplan focuses on launching high impact emissions reduction programs, building community confidence in the S/CAP, and laying the foundation for post 2025 work. The Sustainability section focuses on reducing waste, creating a sustainable and holistically managed water system, adapting to climate change, and enhancing the City’s urban canopy.

4. 2023 Earth Day Report: Palo Alto’s 2021 GHG Inventory

The 2023 Earth Day Report contains Palo Alto’s 2021 GHG Inventory. Understanding where emissions come from is the first step to taking meaningful emissions reduction action. In 2021, Palo Alto reduced emissions 53.9% below 1990 levels, despite a 19.5% population increase during that same time period.

Listen to the discussion of these items at the May 24 S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee, watch the meeting recording and view the slides here.

What is included in the S/CAP?

The S/CAP has eight focus areas: Climate Action, Energy, Electric Vehicles, Mobility, Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste. Energy, Electric Vehicles, and Mobility together address the largest emissions sources in the City — transportation and building energy — and therefore have the largest potential for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

While reducing emissions is a priority, the City believes in a comprehensive view of sustainability. The goals and key actions prioritize improving our natural environment, adapting to climate impacts, and enhancing livability for all Palo Alto residents. Full implementation of the S/CAP will drastically reduce emissions and improve health, safety, and quality of life for the community.

From Conception to Completion

The S/CAP is just one of the most recent plans in a long history of sustainability leadership in Palo Alto, beginning with the City’s first Sustainability Policy in 2000.

The S/CAP Update launched in early 2020 to determine the specific goals and key actions necessary to achieve 80x30. The update was kicked off with community engagement efforts including an eight-part virtual workshop, webinar series highlighting S/CAP topics, an online survey, and an in-person electrification workshop. In April 2021, Council established the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of three City Council members to guide the S/CAP Update development, implementation, and communication.

After multiple iterations and stages of technical analysis, the City Council accepted the S/CAP Goals and Key Actions in October 2022. Staff commenced California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of the S/CAP shortly thereafter and began drafting the final S/CAP Report.

Thank you to all who have provided input and joined us through this iterative process. The adoption of the S/CAP and other work is a key step towards a more sustainable future.

Implementing sustainable actions in everyday life supports the workplan laid out in the S/CAP. Try home composting, consider upgrading your lawn into a beautiful native landscape, or share climate actions with friends and neighbors. Be the change and get involved in Palo Alto’s sustainability efforts here.




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