Santa Monica’s Plan for Reducing Emissions by 80% Before 2030

April 9, 2019 9:00 AM
by Andrew Basmajian

A version of this article originally appeared in the April/May edition of Seascape

This past year was the fourth-hottest on record globally, and another near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters. All of the years on record that were hotter or more disaster-filled came in the past decade. Climate change impacts, like drought, heat waves and wildfire, are happening now and there is no end in sight to the disruption of Earth’s ecosystems. So what can Santa Monica do?

Cities are taking the lead by reducing carbon emissions and leading with strategies that protect our communities, build resilience and emphasize social equity. Santa Monica’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan proposes to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also preparing for climate change impacts. City Council directed staff to develop a plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 or sooner. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is the first phase of that work and seeks to reduce carbon emissions community-wide to 80% below 1990 levels. To put that into perspective, emissions in 2016 had reached 20% below 1990 levels.

Emissions reductions will come primarily in three Climate Action sectors: net zero carbon buildings, zero waste and sustainable mobility.

  1. NET ZERO CARBON BUILDINGS – In 2019, the Clean Power Alliance (CPA) began serving 100% Green Power to Santa Monica residents and businesses, reducing current emissions by as much as 19%. We must focus on making our existing buildings more energy-efficient, and transition away from natural gas for space and water heating to electric-based systems powered by clean energy.

  2. ZERO WASTE – Santa Monica seeks to become a zero waste community by 2030. That means we will be reusing, repairing, recycling and composting most of our materials, instead of sending them to landfills. Banning common disposable items like food takeout containers and straws are one step Santa Monica has taken to promote more sustainable lifestyles.

  3. SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY – Congestion, pollution and carbon emissions are all linked. By making it safer and more convenient to take trips by foot, bike or personal mobility device, we can reduce all three! Reducing emissions will also depend heavily on transitioning to electric vehicles by making it more convenient to charge through public and private infrastructure.

Climate Adaptation will also increase the City’s resilience and address equity by reducing the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities. The Plan calls for, among other things:

By achieving the objectives of this plan, we will be joining a global movement of communities doing their part to address climate change. The next few years are critical to reducing our carbon emissions so we can avoid the worst climate change impacts. This transformation will disrupt the status quo and require community investment in the goal and a willingness to change behaviors. This plan is a call to action for our residents, businesses and government.

City staff will present the Final Draft to the Task Force on the Environment for final recommendation on April 15, and is scheduled to present for adoption by City Council on May 14.

For more information on climate action in Santa Monica, visit

Authored By

Andrew Basmajian
Sustainable Outreach Coordinator