October 3, 2023 10:36 AM
by Nico Predock
In May 2019, the City of Santa Monica adopted the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, or CAAP, which detailed an ambitious but essential goal for the city: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
As of 2022, the city has achieved a 48 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels, which leaves an additional 32 percent reduction necessary to meet the CAAP goal.
Santa Monica has made great progress thanks to strategic, proactive and collaborative efforts. But, of course, there’s still work to do.
Emissions by sector
Looking at emissions progress by sector helps us understand the areas that need more attention. A sector-based inventory measures emissions in a region using data from energy consumption in buildings, vehicles, waste and industry, making it easier to identify areas of progress and areas that need work.
Here’s a look at how emissions from each sector changed from 2019 to 2022 (from vehicle transportation, the largest emissions contributor, down to the smallest contributor, aviation fuel). A negative number indicates a decrease in emissions, while a positive one indicates an increase:
- Vehicle Transportation: -19%
- Building Gas Usage: -7%
- Building Electricity Usage: +75%
- Landfill Waste: +5%
- Aviation Fuel: -2%
- Total: -10%
The most noteworthy changes occurred in the three top emissions sectors:
Vehicle Transportation is the greatest contributor to Santa Monica’s carbon emissions, accounting for 68.5 percent of emissions in 2022. From 2019 to 2020, emissions plummeted, largely due to restricted mobility and economic activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to 2020, mobility and economic activity resumed, and carbon emissions rose by 12 percent in 2022. Because 2020 was such an unusual year, it is more accurate to show overall progress in emissions reductions – and areas in need of improvement – by comparing 2022 emissions to pre-COVID levels in 2019.
Although transportation activity has resumed since the COVID pandemic, overall transportation emissions in 2022 were 19 percent lower than in 2019. This decrease shows that even with the return to normal operations post pandemic, there have still been significant sector-wide emissions reductions. These can largely be attributed to increased vehicle fuel efficiency, more electric vehicles on the road and shorter trips between destinations.
Building gas usage, the second largest contributor, also saw a significant reduction, seven percent, from 2019 to 2022.
Emissions from the third largest contributor, building electricity usage, increased by 75 percent from 2019 to 2022. This is likely because in 2019, Santa Monica became a member of the Clean Power Alliance, or CPA, defaulting all electricity accounts in the City to 100 percent green power. Before participating in CPA, Santa Monica electricity accounts received energy from Southern California Edison, which did not source electricity from entirely renewable sources. Between 2019 and 2022, it is likely that a few large commercial or industrial energy users decided not to participate in the Clean Power Alliance and changed from receiving 100 percent green power to other electricity sources, increasing emissions in this sector.
For more detailed information, see the full 2022 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update.
A look toward the future
Santa Monica continues to implement programs, initiatives and strategies to address the largest emitting sectors, while also advocating for and complying with relevant state policies.
Building energy – The majority of Santa Monica’s building sector emissions come from burning natural gas for heating and cooking in residential and commercial buildings. Santa Monica’s CAAP has a goal of reducing fossil fuel use by 20 percent in existing buildings by 2030. A separate portion of building sector emissions come from electricity use in commercial and industrial buildings that are not enrolled in CPA 100 percent green power. The city is committed to improving commercial and industrial participation in CPA.
Vehicle transportation – Santa Monica, in collaboration with federal, state and local efforts, continues to push for annual decreases in transportation-related carbon emissions. The state requires increased annual electric vehicle, or EV, sales and will restrict the sale of gasoline cars by 2035. Local and federal programs and incentives are driving widespread EV adoption. Santa Monica has been expanding its public EV charger network and recently passed a city code requiring new projects to increase the number of EV charging spaces, particularly in new multifamily buildings.
What you can do
There are many ways you can reduce your carbon emissions and make Santa Monica a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable city. To better understand where your carbon emissions come from, check out this Carbon Footprint Calculator from the EPA. This tool will give you a breakdown of your carbon footprint so you can make more sustainable and environmentally friendly choices.
And check out these upcoming events supporting Santa Monica’s climate action goals:
Clean Air Day: On Wednesday, Oct. 4, Big Blue Bus will offer free rides for California Clean Air Day. Earlier this year, Big Blue Bus received a $22.9 million state grant to support fleet electrification. Take the Clean Air Pledge.
Bike It! Walk It! Bus It!: Beginning Monday, Oct. 2, through Friday, Oct. 6, Big Blue Bus will celebrate Bike It! Walk It! Bus It! by offering free rides to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students. For more details, click here.