San Francisco Department of the Environment Climate Action StrategySan Francisco Department of the Environment
San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Over the past decade, cities in the U.S. and around the world have responded to people's call for political action on climate change.
San Francisco is a leader among them.

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. 



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.



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.



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.



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.”



Hunters Point Power Plant Closes

San Francisco achieves a major environmental justice victory by closing the polluting Hunters Point Power Plant and meeting a central goal of the San Francisco Electricity Resource Plan.

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

San Francisco bans plastic bags at large grocery stores and retailers, and bans Styrofoam containers in restaurants and hotels in the nation’s most extensive bag ban to date.

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.



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, 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.



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.



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

At the commemoration of the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project, comprised of 24,000 solar panels, San Francisco Mayor Newsom announces the goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2020. 


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.

Consumption-Based Greenhouse Gas Inventory

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.


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.

Bag Ban

San Francisco extends its plastic bag ban, reducing unnecessary waste and litter, and protecting marine life.



San Francisco Climate Action Strategy Update 

The San Francisco Department of Environment completes the San Francisco Climate Action Strategy Update, under Mayor Edwin Lee.

For a list of additional milestones from 1996-2013, download the Climate Action Strategy Update 2013.