South City moves forward with Climate Action Plan

Courtesy photoSouth City is charting a new course in environmental stewardship.

South San Francisco has decided to chart a new environmental course for itself that aims to reduce the city's impact on climate change, according to a sustainability manager.

Currently in its final draft form, the city's Climate Action Plan includes a multifaceted approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and support similar statewide efforts, officials said. Early efforts by the city and community partners have already reduced emissions by 4,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse gas emissions are seen by officials as the most critical aspect of the city's plan to prepare for and prevent climate change.

“The central purpose of climate action plans is to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions,” said Sustainability Manager Susan McCue, who noted that the CAP currently includes a 15 percent reduction target by 2020.

If business continues as usual and no mitigation measures are employed, the city's emissions could likely increase 11 percent by 2020 and 24 percent by 2035, according to city documents.

The city's plan identifies statewide reduction efforts, existing local programs, as well as energy efficiency and conservation as the three chief methods of achieving the 2020 emissions reduction target — together accounting for 63 percent of the total goal. But alternative transportation, clean-fuel vehicles and renewable-energy programs are also expected to contribute to the city's overall pollution reduction strategy.

The vast majority of South City's emissions are generated by energy use and transportation — accounting for 48 percent and 36 percent, respectively, city officials said. The remaining 16 percent of emissions are divided between landfill and waste emissions, as well as stationary sources.

Several companies such as Genentech — which employs 9,000 people in South City — are excluded from the CAP because their emissions are regulated through the state government, according to city documents.

Many of South City's sustainability programs have already been implemented. For example, single-use plastic bags were recently banned by the city, following ordinances requiring environmentally friendly food packaging and a transportation demand management program. The city also adopted a bicycle master plan in 2010, and has completed a parking structure on Miller Avenue that includes electric-vehicle charging and other sustainable features.

While a city may not be required to have a CAP, McCue and other South City officials believe it is a more efficient way to meet state-mandated emission reduction targets and to participate in federal initiatives. President Barack Obama has recently issued an executive order that directs federal agencies to “modernize federal programs” to support regional and local efforts to mitigate climate change's impacts that affect communities' resources, ecosystems and economies, according to the White House.

The city has been working on its CAP since 2011 and is set to go before the Planning Commission on Jan. 16. If approved, the plan is anticipated to be voted on by the City Council at its Feb. 12 meeting.

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