Over the past decade, cities in the United States and around the world have responded to people's call for political action on climate change. San Francisco is a leader among them.
Climate Action Plan update released December 2021
After a multi-year process involving 20 City departments and engagement with technical experts, business leaders, regional and state agencies, and thousands of community stakeholders, Mayor London N. Breed announced in December the release of the 2021 San Francisco Climate Action Plan (CAP). In addition to showing how the City can eliminate emissions over the next 20 years, the 2021 CAP makes commitments to supporting racial and social equity and ensuring that the many community benefits of local climate action are available to all.
New, accelerated zero emissions targets established through Chapter 9 of the Environment Code
The legislation, sponsored by Mayor London N. Breed, updates the City's Environment Code and sets new targets for sector-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are the emissions generated within the City. The new targets include:
- By 2030, reduce sector-based GHG emissions by 61% below 1990 level, and
- By 2040, reach net-zero sector-based emissions and sequester any residual emissions using nature-based solutions.
The update also establishes initial targets for consumption-based GHG emissions, which are emissions that occur throughout the supply chain of goods consumed in San Francisco, and requires the City to prepare a Climate Action Plan (CAP) by the end of 2021. The CAP, which serves as the roadmap for achieving the emission reductions must also: include an equity framework to address historic racial and social inequities; prioritize social, economic, and environmental benefits derived from implementing the CAP; and ensure an equitable distribution of those benefits.
Natural Gas Banned in New and Significantly Renovated City Buildings
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the municipal sector, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to phase out natural gas in new and significantly renovated city buildings. Since natural gas represents 99 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, reducing the city’s natural gas use serves as a concrete step towards San Francisco’s emissions reduction goals.
Published San Francisco’s 1990-2015 Consumption-Based Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report
In partnership with Cool Climate Network, this report is a methodological update to the City’s first consumption-based emissions inventory (CBEI) released in 2011. Researchers found that despite San Francisco’s progress towards reducing its geographic emissions 26% between 1990-2015, its total and per household consumption-based emissions only fell by 2% and 17%, respectively. Conducting an inventory through the lens of a CBEI is meant to surface opportunities for San Franciscans and businesses to expand their emission reduction commitments by producing and consuming their food, goods, and services sustainably.
Published San Francisco’s Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan
The Hazards and Climate Resilience Plan serves as a blueprint for San Francisco businesses and residents to better understand and address the impacts of natural disasters facing the city. It identifies the climate-related hazards, risks, and consequences and proposes over 90 strategies to mitigate the impacts.
Published the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Consequences Assessment
The Assessment describes the vulnerability of public buildings and infrastructure to sea level rise and coastal flooding and the consequences on people, the economy, and the environment. It includes a series of illustrative neighborhood profiles that describe how neighborhoods would be impacted by sea level rise and coastal flooding over time, with a focus on vulnerable communities.
Increased Checkout Bag Charge and Recyclable or Compostable Pre-Checkout Bag Ordinance
Effective July 2020, this Ordinance raises the amount stores must charge for checkout bags from 10 cents to 25 cents per bag to encourage greater bag reuse and requires that pre-checkout bags, such as for produce or bulk items, must be recyclable or compostable.
Open for Business: Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) Business Supports Small and Medium Businesses
SF Environment worked with Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) to roll out the new commercial program “BayREN Business”, a regional energy efficiency program that provides services, rebates, and equipment to the Bay Area’s small and medium businesses. This program makes reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings even more accessible to the commercial sector.
Rollout of a new Refuse Separation Compliance Ordinance
In an effort to reduce recyclable and compostable materials sent to landfill, San Francisco passed the Refuse Separation Compliance Ordinance. This amendment to the existing Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance requires audits of large refuse generators every three years to ensure compliance with refuse separation requirements. If audits are failed, then large refuse generators must engage the services of zero waste facilitators.
Large Commercial Buildings Required to Use 100% Renewable Electricity
In an effort to further reduce San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Mayor London Breed’s legislation requiring large commercial buildings to use greenhouse-gas free electricity by 2030.
SF Environment Developed the Report Focus 2030: A Pathway to Net Zero Emissions
SF Environment in collaboration with the Mayor’s office and partner City agencies developed a technical report detailing a path for achieving emissions reductions by 2030. The report quantifies potential emissions reductions depending on how the city pursues its 0-80-100 Roots goals.
Updated Existing Building Energy Performance Ordinance
The Existing Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance was updated to reflect the statewide benchmarking law AB802, which required multifamily buildings over 50,000 square feet to benchmark. Now, even more San Francisco Buildings will be able to track their annual energy use.
Single-Use Plastics, Toxics and Litter Reduction Ordinance in Effect July 1, 2019
In order to reduce plastic pollution and eliminate sources of toxins in consumer products, the Single-Use Plastics, Toxics and Litter Reduction Ordinance prohibits the distribution of plastic straws and other foodware accessories and eliminates toxic fluorinated chemicals from foodware products.
San Francisco Celebrates First-Ever Climate Action Month in April
San Francisco celebrated its inaugural Climate Action Month by curating a variety of volunteer opportunities, workshops, films, street fairs, and classes during the month of April to raise awareness and galvanize action around climate change.
San Francisco receives a score of A from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
San Francisco’s status as a leading city in the transition to a climate-safe future was lauded when it was named one of 24 cities in North America to score an A for its action to cut carbon emissions and set climate strategies. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a non-profit environmental disclosure platform where cities can showcase how they are taking action to curb climate change.
Expanded Electric Vehicle Charging in Commercial Parking
To support the Citywide EV Roadmap vision of achieving 100 percent emission-free ground transportation by 2040, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation requiring more electric vehicle charging stations. This legislation expands publicly accessible electric vehicle charging in all large commercial parking facilities throughout San Francisco.
Development of San Francisco’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap
In an effort led by SF Environment, San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, departments across the City and private sector developed the Electric Vehicle Roadmap. The EV Roadmap outlines six strategies aimed to accelerate transportation electrification to achieve 100 percent emission-free ground transportation by 2040.
Passed the San Francisco Biodiversity Policy
The San Francisco Biodiversity Policy aims to promote local biodiversity and integrate healthy native wildlife and plant habitats thought the city’s physical environment. It directs City departments to strengthen collaboration on biodiversity initiatives, complete department-level biodiversity surveys and make public commitments to support biodiversity through agency-specific work and responsibilities.
Announcement of Carbon Neutrality Goal
Mayor Mark Farrell committed San Francisco to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a move that will eliminate the City’s carbon footprint. San Francisco joins 25 other cities from around the globe that have made the commitment to accelerate emission reduction plans. The pledge aligns with the Paris Climate Accord and builds on San Francisco’s track record of successfully reducing emissions while simultaneously growing its economy.
Announcement of 80% Sustainable Trips Goal
80 stands for 80% Sustainable Trips in 0-80-100-Roots (changed from: 0-50-100-Roots), the San Francisco’s climate action framework that will help us meet the challenge of climate change through innovative policies, programs, and partnerships.
Transitioning Private Ferry Fleets to 100% Renewable Diesel
Mayor Mark Farrell announced that Bay Area ferries will make historic transition to renewable diesel, becoming the first region in the nation to adopt the environmentally-responsible fuel standard. Renewable diesel made from nonpetroleum renewable resources like natural fats, vegetable oils, and greases, works just like regular diesel and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent or more.
San Francisco Commission on the Environment passes a resolution adopting citywide biodiversity goals and articulating the role of the Department of the Environment in protecting San Francisco's natural heritage. The vision is to enable all San Franciscans to connect to nature daily and inspire to participate in some form of ecological stewardship of the City’s natural heritage.
Electric Vehicle Readiness Ordinance
The EV Readiness ordinance requires all new buildings in San Francisco to install electric vehicle charging capacity. It will make plug-in electric vehicle charging more widely available in new building stock, while helping to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Announcement of 50% Renewable Energy Goal by 2020
Mayor Lee, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s announced the City’s goal of 50 percent renewable electricity supply by 2020. Offering CleanPowerSF to every eligible SF resident and business is the single most crucial factor driving greenhouse gas emission reductions from San Francisco’s energy sector.
Banning Flame Retardant Chemicals in Furniture and Children’s Products
San Francisco became the first city in the US to ban the sale of upholstered furniture and juvenile products made with or containing an added flame retardant chemical, which have been known to or strongly suspected of adversely impacting human health or development.
San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City to Require Rooftop Solar on New Buildings
Effective January 1st, 2017, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to mandate solar and living roofs on most new construction. With the passage of this legislation, between 15% and 30% of roof space on most new construction projects will incorporate solar, living roofs, or a combination of both.
Polystyrene Foam and the Food Service and Packaging Waste Reduction Ordinance
Starting January 1, 2017, San Francisco prohibits the sale of food service ware and packing materials made from polystyrene foam, making it one of the strictest bans on polystyrene foam products in the country.
Launch of Clean Power SF
CleanPowerSF is San Francisco’s Community Choice Aggregation program and gives residents and businesses the option to choose electricity generated from 100% renewable resources (solar and wind) in California.
2016 At-a-Glance Report
The 2016 Geographic Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory provides a summary for San Francisco’s GHG emissions. In 2016, San Francisco successfully reduced emissions 29% below 1990 levels from 6.2 million to 4.4 million mtCO2e. Declines occurred across all five tracked sectors. Emission reductions were achieved even though San Francisco’s population increased by 20% and GDP increased by 111%.
Launch of San Francisco’s 0-50-100-Roots Climate Action Strategy
Mayor Lee announced San Francisco’s 0-50-100-ROOTS climate action strategy: send zero waste to landfill, make 50% of trips by sustainable modes, source 100% renewable energy, and sequester carbon through urban forestry and compost application (roots).
Preventing Pollution through Safe Drug Disposal
Following Alameda County’s landmark legislation, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Safe Drug Disposal Stewardship Ordinance requiring medicine manufacturers who sell their products in San Francisco to provide all San Francisco residents with a safe and convenient way to dispose of their unwanted home-generated medicine.
San Francisco Exceeds Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Goal
Mayor Ed Lee and Board President London Breed announce that San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were 23 percent below 1990 levels and the City is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent and 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2017 and 2025, respectively.
San Francisco Shifts to Renewable Diesel for City Fleet
After visiting the Vatican, Mayor Lee announces San Francisco will phase out the use of petroleum diesel in its municipal fleet, including Muni buses and fire trucks, and replace it with renewable diesel.
City Unveils New Urban Forest Plan
Can you imagine a San Francisco without trees? The Urban Forest Plan provides a long-term vision and strategy to improve the health and sustainability of the San Francisco’s urban forest.
Ban of Plastic Water Bottles on City Property
The Board of Supervisors approved legislation restricting the sale or distribution of plastic water bottles on City property and increasing the availability of drinking water in public areas.
San Francisco Climate Action Strategy Update
The San Francisco Department of Environment completes the San Francisco Climate Action Strategy Update, under Mayor Edwin Lee.
Health and GHG Emissions
The US Court of Appeals upholds the finding by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that GHG emissions endanger public health and contribute to global warming. This same year, the San Francisco Department of the Environment partners with the US EPA, Region 9, to conduct an evaluation of the health benefits associated with local climate policy. The study concludes that the Climate Action Plan’s reduction measures will result in significant economic benefits (approximately $114 million) from improved health outcomes.
San Francisco extends its plastic bag ban, reducing unnecessary waste and litter, and protecting marine life.
Potrero Power Plant Closes
Potrero Power Plant closes in January following the completion of the Trans Bay Cable project, which allows power generated across the Bay to be transferred to San Francisco. The closure of this dirty power plant helps to greatly reduce San Francisco’s carbon footprint and also decreases the carbon instensity of the overall statewide electricity grid.
San Francisco, with Green Cities California, publishes one of the first consumption-based greenhouse gas inventories in the nation. Unlike the traditional GHG emissions inventory which only accounts for carbon emissions associated with energy use in buildings and fuel burned in local vehicles, the consumption-based inventory looks at carbon impacts of the full lifecycle of goods and services.
Existing Building Benchmarking
The Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance was passed to help the local market maximize energy efficiency in San Francisco commercial buildings. The ordinance aims to empower owners, managers, operators, and occupants with key information to control utility costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency.
Public Health and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
After thorough study of the scientific evidence, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declares that greenhouse gas emissions are a public health threat. The finding allows the agency to finalize GHG emission standards for light-duty vehicles and to regulate coal-fired (polluting) power plants.
100% Renewable Goal
California’s Clean Car Standards
Assembly Bill 1493 (Pavley) is the first law in the nation to address greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. California’s Clean Car Standards requires increased gas mileage.
Mandatory Composting and Recycling Ordinance
Passed by the Board of Supervisors, the Mandatory Composting and Recycling Ordinance requires all San Franciscans, residents and businesses to separate recyclables and compostables from landfill trash. Simultaneously, San Francisco reaches its 75% waste diversion goal a year early.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs Executive Order S-14-08 to expand California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to require all retail sellers of electricity serve 33% of their load with renewable energy by 2020.
San Francisco Meets Kyoto Protocol Targets
Mainly because of the closure of the Hunters Point Power Plant and an increase in renewable energy use, San Francisco’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions decrease by 7%, slightly besting Kyoto targets.
All Buildings Must Be Built Green
The Green Building Ordinance is phased in over 5 years, starting by requiring new large commercial and high-rise residential buildings to meet a LEED standard. By 2012, LEED Gold is required for new large commercial buildings and major renovations, Today, all new construction and renovations must be built green.
Climate Action by San Francisco City Departments
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopts Ordinance No. 81-08, the Climate Change Goals and Action Plan (PDF), mandating the annual reporting of GHG emissions and reduction plans by City department. In 2008, all City and County of San Francisco departments began annual reporting on their carbon footprints with the Departmental Climate Action Plans.
Hunters Point Power Plant Closes
California's Global Warming Solutions Act
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, establishing a goal to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Plastic Bag Ban
LEED Silver for Municipal Buildings
The City requires all municipal construction building projects to attain LEED Silver and green building certification. LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system for green solutions to a building’s design, construction, operations, and maintenance. In 2012, requirements for municipal buildings were raised to LEED Gold certification.
Business Council on Climate Change
In response to a commitment made by the private and public sector at the U.N.’s World Environment Day and under the U.N. Global Compact, a consortium of Bay Area business leaders establish the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3), a unique public-private partnership committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. BC3 endorses the Principles on Climate Leadership, a strategic framework to address climate change, and provides a forum for sharing best practices.
US Mayors Take Action on Climate Change
The U.S. Conference of Mayors formally endorses the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Mayor Newsom signs the agreement, committing San Francisco to fight climate change and support the Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction targets.
Urban Environmental Accords
San Francisco hosts the United Nation’s Urban Environmental Accords. At World Environment Day, Mayor Gavin Newsom presents mayors from around the world with the opportunity to create an urban future that will be “ecologically sustainable, economically dynamic, and socially equitable.”
San Francisco's First Climate Action Plan
The San Francisco Department of Environment, under Mayor Gavin Newsom, publishes one of the first community climate action plans in the country as part of its commitment to the U.S Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The aggressive goals and detailed actions directed by the Climate Action Plan for San Francisco breaks ground in the American climate policy movement, establishing San Francisco as a national leader in city-driven climate action.
Municipal Environmental Code
The San Francisco Department of Environment establishes the San Francisco Municipal Environmental Code. The Environment Code consolidates the City’s existing ordinances governing protection of the environment, natural resources, and sustainability.
California’s First Renewable Portfolio Standard
California passes the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard requiring that 20% of all power delivered by PG&E, the City’s primary power provider, come from eligible renewable resources. In 2008, this percentage was raised to 30%, with an increase to 33% by 2020.
Zero Waste Goal
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopts a Zero Waste goal for 2020, with a 2010 goal of 75% diversion from landfill. The “fantastic three” blue, green, and black bins are rolled out, along with citizen education and outreach.
Kyoto Protocol Developed
US leads negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, then does not sign the agreement. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement, linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
San Francisco’s First Call to Climate Action
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passes Resolution 158-02 which calls for the City to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
San Francisco's First Sustainability Plan
A citywide effort involving hundreds of San Franciscans culminates in the 1996 publication of San Francisco's Sustainability Plan, and its adoption by the Board of Supervisors the following year.
For a list of additional milestones from 1996-2013, download the Climate Action Strategy Update 2013.