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California Leads the Nation In Environmental Initiatives

The view from atop Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, the second only to San Diego as the greenest city in the United States

California is a state known for its environmental initiatives. In 2006, the golden state enacted a bold law that requires greenhouse gas emissions levels to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. It is a goal the state has met as of this year. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that requires GHG emissions to be reduced by 40 percent below 1990 levels

California has a cap-and-trade scheme launched in 2013. It is expected to reduce GHG emissions by over 16 percent from 2013 to 2020, and by an extra 40 percent by 2030. The scheme applies to large electric power plants, large industrial plants, and fuel distributors. The state has linked its scheme with similar ones in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which means that businesses in one area can use the emissions allowances issued by the others for compliance. California’s program is the first multi-sector cap-and-trade program in North America.

The state with the largest population has a renewable portfolio standard, established in 2002 and accelerated in 2006 by requiring that 20 percent of electricity retail sales must come from renewables by 2010. In 2008, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that requires 33 percent of energy come from renewables by 2020. Governor Brown signed legislation in 2013 that set the RPS target at 33 percent. Two years later, he signed a bill that sets the RPS target at 50 percent by 2030.

California cities dominate WalletHub’s greenest cities list

A recent WalletHub study finds that California has the largest percentage of green cities. Six California cities made WalletHub’s list of the 10 greenest cities in America: San Diego, San Francisco, Irvine, San Jose, Fremont, and Sacramento.

Looking at San Diego’s sustainability initiatives it is easy to see it made the top of WalletHub’s list. The city has a climate action plan which includes increasing the use of renewable energy to achieve 100 percent citywide use in 2030 and eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city.

The city is well on its way to achieving its goals with a 19.3 percent reduction in citywide GHG emissions from 2010 from 2016 and 43 percent use of renewables citywide. Other goals include achieving zero waste and landfill diversion, capturing methane from wastewater treatment, reducing daily per capita water use, reducing residential energy use and increasing urban tree canopy cover. San Diego has allocated $128 million in funds to climate action in the city for 2018. It is the only city to release a sustainability-specific budget.

San Francisco ranks number two on WalletHub’s list, and it’s not hard to see why. The city by the bay has a target of reducing GHG emissions by 40 percent by 2025. It is working to achieve that target through a number of initiatives, including programs to increase energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy in its buildings. To date, the city has achieved reduced its emissions by 29 percent.

Two public sites in San Diego and San Francisco are good examples of why both cities rank number one and two on WalletHub’s list. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park features 10 LEED certified buildings. A national historic landmark, Balboa Park composts 50 percent of its green waste onsite and has reduced energy and water use. The city hall in San Francisco became the oldest building in the U.S. to receive LEED certification in 2015. Built in 1915, the city hall is more energy efficient than 90 percent of buildings like it across the nation. Water efficiency upgrades save about 825,000 gallons of drinking water.


Photo by Tom Schueneman, all rights reserved

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