Santa Monica is planning to spend almost a billion dollars over the next 10 years to cut carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.
The $833 million Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) that City Council unanimously approved Tuesday night sets an ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions to 20 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030. It also outlines a plan to shield the city from the local effects of climate change, including coastal flooding, high temperatures, poor air quality and drought.
“A climate crisis is indeed truly upon us,” said senior sustainability analyst Garrett Wong. “Over the past few years, we have experienced some of California’s and the region’s worst wildfires, droughts, mudslides and heatwaves.”
The CAAP aims to reduce emissions by weaning buildings off fossil fuels, recycling or composting all waste and getting drivers out of their cars. Santa Monica will stop importing water by 2023 to avoid being impacted by regional droughts, buffer the coast against flooding and protect the city’s population from extreme heat and natural disasters.
“This plan is going to be a model for a lot of other cities,” said chief sustainability officer Dean Kubani.
Council has already approved $383 million in funding that will further the plan’s goals, but future Councils will need to allocate almost twice that amount over the next decade to carbon neutrality and climate resilience projects, many of which have not yet been fully planned. It also relies on state sustainability policies to cut local emissions by 40 percent.
“This is a powerful and definitive and specific road map … but it’s only a road map and we’ll have to actually take the journey,” said city manager Rick Cole.
The City of Santa Monica would be responsible for the other 40 percent of local emissions. The largest reduction – 26 percent – would come from converting half of local trips to walking or riding bikes, scooters and skateboards, a quarter of commuter trips to public transportation and half of vehicles to electric or zero emission. Emissions from vehicle fuel currently make up almost two-thirds of the city’s total emissions.
So far, Santa Monica has focused on improving pedestrian and bike infrastructure, encouraging public transportation and carpooling for commuters and partnering with dockless scooter and bike companies. The CAAP sets a goal of 1,000 electric vehicle charging ports by 2025 and the city is on track to reach 300 ports by 2020.
Providing renewable electricity to all buildings, which began earlier this year, discouraging fossil fuels in new buildings, cutting use in existing buildings by 20 percent and installing enough solar panels to power about 75,000 homes would reduce emissions by 21 percent, the second-largest decrease in local emissions.
An additional three percent reduction would come from recycling and composting all waste. While a Council has already passed a law requiring restaurants to provide marine degradable containers and utensils, the CAAP calls for more action against single-use materials and a citywide composting service.
The reduction in local emissions will be accompanied by plans to mitigate the effects of climate change on the city’s population. Over the next decade, the City will find ways to protect groups like the elderly and homeless from high temperatures and handle climate-related emergencies.
The City has already committed to a goal of water self-sufficiency by 2023, which will require $78 million in spending on infrastructure projects but will save residents money in the long term and ensure they have access to water even during regional droughts.
Although Santa Monica’s deep, wide beach will help protect the city from rising sea levels, the City will still need to mitigate the impacts of flooding on the coast.
It is already collaborating with the Bay Foundation to restore sand dunes as a storm barrier and plans to flood-proof buildings and infrastructure near the ocean, including the Santa Monica Pier, and identify the coast as a hazard zone in real estate transactions. About $109 million in real estate is at risk of coastal flooding, according to the CAAP.
The resiliency plan also calls for preserving the city’s urban forest as a carbon sink and promoting local, plant-based food.
“Taken as a whole, the plan is really significant,” Kubani told the Daily Press in March. “This is a goal that requires a transformative change in our society.”