Palo Alto aims to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050
Palo Alto aims to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050
Rhett A Butler, mongabay.com
April 15, 2007
The city of Palo Alto, California aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly in coming years, joining a growing number of U.S. cities that have pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
The goal, set forth in “Green Ribbon” task force report last year, was discussed by a panel of experts convening at Stanford University Sunday.
“Climate Change as an issue is not something that just appeared,” said Judy Kleinber, former Mayor of Palo Alto and now a city council member. “The green ribbon task force on climate changes involves Stanford, business leaders, the Palo Alto PTA, and Palo Alto Citizens working to develop a set of recommendations to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
Noting that Palo Alto’s carbon dioixde emissions were 644,000 metric tons in 2005, City Senior Resource Planner Karl Knapp said that per capita emissions in Palo Alto (11.3 metric tons per person per year) are slightly above average for California at (11.0 metric tons). About 49 percent of Palo Alto emissions result from home and business energy use, while 51 percent come from transportation.
Knapp said the task force was developing initiatives to make Palo Alto “climate neutral” by 2020 through improved energy efficiency, green building, and reduced energy use. He said that instilling a sense of moral imperative about global warming in the community was key since municipal activities generate only about 3 percent of the city’s total emissions.
“Cities can facilitate, but we need citizens to make it happen,” he said, before noting that about one out of six Palo Alto residents chooses to pay extra for energy from renewable sources like wind.
Stanford University Efforts
Chris Christofferson, Vice Provost of Facilities at Stanford University, added that Stanford was taking steps to help make Palo Alto greener by more efficient building construction, transportation demand management, water conservation, recycling and energy efficiency.
He said that sustainability concerns are given equal weight campus building decisions while the university has introduced life cycle cost analysis into construction planning. Christofferson noted that the university’s new Jasper Ridge facility was so efficient that its photovoltaic system was producing more electricity than it used.
“Our meter is running backwards,” he said.
Christofferson was particularly proud of gains in carpool participation, with commuting in single occupancy vehicles falling from 72 percent in 2002 to 58 percent in 2005 (compared with 74 percent county wide). He said that the university’s program pays commuters who give up their parking permit the value of the permit in cash plus a free transportation pass that allows them to use public transport to commute to campus.
“Instead of increasing the size of intersections [on campus] which only accommodates the problem, we decided to do something about it,” he said. “We’ve seen a big drop in [single occupancy vehicle community].”
Christofferson said that Stanford has cut daily water consumption by 18 percent since 2002 by installing low flow fixtures in 80 percent of the school’s bathrooms and improving irrigation systems. The campus diverts 58 percent of its waste — 46.5 tons per day — through recycling programs while co-generation means the university has reduced the university’s energy needs by 38 percent.
Palo Alto Can’t Do it Alone
Taking a broader look at global warning, Stanford researcher Jeremy Carl said that growing emissions from other parts of the world — especially China and India — show that Palo Alto can’t solve global warming on its own. Carl suggested that the biggest contribution Palo Alto could make to fighting climate change would be leading by example and, more importantly, developing technologies that reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions.
Carl agreed with other panel members that a carbon tax would help factor in the true costs of carbon to society but that such an initiative presently lacks political support.
“The best thing you could do would be to implement a carbon tax but no politician has the guts to do that,” said green ribbon task force chair Walt Hays who added that the single easiest thing citizens can do to reduce emissions is to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs.
U.S. can cut oil imports to zero by 2040, oil use to zero by 2050. The United States could dramatically cut oil usage over the next 20-30 years at low to no net cost, said Amory B. Lovins, cofounder and CEO of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, speaking at Stanford University Wednesday night for a week-long evening series of lectures sponsored by Mineral Acquisition Partners, Inc.
Measures to drive adoption of super efficient cars in the U.S. To reduce its growing dependence on foreign oil the United States could implement relatively low-cost measures to put millions of super efficient vehicles on American highways, said energy efficiency expert Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute in a speech at Stanford University. The measures could significantly cut oil usage, help fight climate change, and make U.S. roads safer.
Palo Alto leads United States in renewable energy use. Palo Alto has the highest percentage of renewable energy users in the country according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) 2005 Top Ten list. With 13.6% of utility customers enrolled in the city’s renewable energy program, known as PaloAltoGreen, Palo Alto is leading the United States green energy. Palo Alto’s participation rate is more than 10 times better than the national average of 1.3% participation for green pricing programs.
Environmentalism without tears: Arguing climate change to an energy executive. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to make a pitch to “Mike,” a top executive of a major energy company, about climate change and green energy. Mike said he didn’t believe humans are influencing climate or that green energy is a key factor in the future business of his firm, “EnergyCo.” I tried to persuade him otherwise, not by focusing on the science of climate change but on economics and market opportunities. It’s not that science isn’t important—I just didn’t want to get caught up in an argument about core beliefs, which is akin to arguing over religion.