San Francisco Mayor Touts 41% Drop in Carbon Emissions

San Francisco Mayor London Breed marked Earth Day by noting her city is well ahead of goals established by the Paris climate accord and the state of California.

San Francisco, as seen from the Marin headlands. (Courthouse News photo / Chris Marshall)

(CN) — Bringing the United States back to the war against climate change, President Joe Biden called on nations Thursday to sharply cut their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade and pledged the U.S. will reduce its carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030. 

But San Francisco Mayor London Breed said her city is already ahead of both Biden’s goals and the benchmarks set by the Paris agreement. She said carbon emissions have dropped 41% from 1990 levels and the city will become a net-zero emitter by the year 2045 — five years ahead of the deadline established for major cities in the United Nations agreement.

“The effects of climate change are impacting all of us — especially our most vulnerable communities,” Breed said in an Earth Day statement. “As we emerge from this pandemic, our climate goals will help us recover in a way that’s even more resilient and equitable.” 

Breed pointed to CleanPowerSF, the city’s community-choice energy plan, as a significant driver of recent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a source of hope for reducing them even further. 

The program has already purchased enough renewable energy projects to allow the city to transition to a 100% clean-energy portfolio by 2025, five years ahead of benchmarks set by the state, the mayor said. 

“It is clear that CleanPowerSF is making a significant impact on our city’s ability to meet and exceed our environmental sustainability goals,” said Micheal Carlin, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. 

CleanPowerSF currently serves about 380,000 people within city limits and offers two tiers of clean energy portfolios. Customers can select from a Green program, a mix of renewable and traditional fossil fuel energy sources, or they can pay approximately $3 more for the average household for 100% renewable energy. 

City officials say the program will continue to invest in various clean energy projects so that all customers on the mixed plan can so transition to a 100% renewable energy portfolio at no extra cost. 

However nascent the transition, it has begun to demonstrate results, according to city officials. 

San Francisco’s emissions levels are currently 41% below what they were in 1990. This exceeds the goal the city had set to reduce emissions by 40% by 2025. 

“I’m proud of this city’s substantial achievements in meeting our environmental goals early, thanks to the hard work of each and every resident, and to our innovative policies and programs,” said Debbie Raphael, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Updating how and from where residents get their electricity is just part of how the city reduces its emissions. It has also revamped its green building codes, promoted energy efficiency programs and switched to a renewable form of diesel fuel. 

The city typically reports its annual emissions every April. 

In order to continue reaching benchmarks, the city must reduce emissions from office buildings and homes as well as transition to a carbon-free transportation system. Officials see both has high priorities. 

“San Francisco has continued to push ahead with our commitment to sustainable and innovative environmental policies that set a standard for the rest of the country,” Breed said. “We’re taking bold, aggressive action because our future depends on it.”

Mayors of other major cities also pledged to work alongside Biden to accomplish national goals relating to emissions reductions. 

The United Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Biden on Thursday outlining their support and requesting to be involved in major policy decisions that relate to climate change. 

“As local elected officials we stand with you as you move forward on your agenda,” the letter states. “We are prepared to make bolder goals and further commitments so that we are successful in mitigating and adapting to the devastating impacts of climate change. 

Signatories included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Lexington, South Carolina, councilmember Kathy Maness, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

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