San Francisco Department of the Environment

Mayor Lee Applauds President Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Written 8/7/2013

San Francisco, like many cities around the world, is experiencing impacts from a changing climate.  From storm surges, to sea level rise, to heat waves, our city has already begun to feel the effects of climate disruption, and we are not alone. Superstorm Sandy, record-breaking heat, and the most widespread drought in decades have served as a climate wake-up call for our nation.  

I applaud President Obama for heeding this call and outlining a national climate action plan that includes three winning strategies and focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping communities adapt to climate change, and being an international leader for climate action. Climate change action is a core priority for San Francisco and these strategies mirror the comprehensive approach that our city is committed to.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions are down 14.5% from 1990 levels. These reductions occurred even as the city’s economy and population grew during the same 20-year period. This is evidence of how bringing down green house gas emissions is essential for not only environmental protection but also creating jobs and building a strong economy.  And as President Obama poignantly said, “…there is no contradiction between protecting the environment and expanding our economy”.  In San Francisco we have proven this is true time and again.

San Francisco couldn’t have accomplished this milestone without ambitious goals, innovative policies and a climate action plan based on simple, everyday actions. Every resident and business has played a part, from increasing recycling and composting, to installing solar with the help of incentives from the City, to choosing public transit or alternatives like biking, walking or electric vehicles.

The President’s plan will ensure that the federal government is doing its part while offering leadership and assistance to cities to get up to speed with climate action. It will also help tackle greenhouse gas emissions in areas out of their purview, such as establishing carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants and creating new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

Reducing harmful greenhouse gases is key to helping to ward off effects of climate change.  We must continue to mitigate their effect locally through reduction strategies.  However, we now know that climate change is not longer something that only future generations will experience.  Our climate is changing today and we must also find ways to adapt.

Adapting to a Changing Climate

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the City is taking steps to adapt to the effects of a changing climate. Like planning for an earthquake or a major disaster, we are developing our own adaptation plan plus working to strengthen sea walls, preparing local populations for extreme heat, and preserving and enhancing the natural environment. 

Leading by Example

What is the President’s plan missing? If I could recommend one additional strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build jobs, it would be setting a national landfill diversion goal of 75%. Achieving 75% landfill diversion rate by 2030 would result in the reduction of about 515 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions- the equivalent to shutting down 72 coal-fired power plants. A 75% diversion would create 2.3 million jobs. 

San Francisco already diverts 80 percent of material from the landfill, a move that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions and created jobs in our community.

President Obama’s climate plan will not only help to ensure we reduce our impact on our planet but that we strengthen our economy and our communities along the way.  Taking local and national action to reduce harmful emissions, help communities adapt and lead internationally will have multiple benefits for our planet, our environment, our economy and our communities for generations to come. 

As San Francisco’s Mayor, I stand with President Obama in his call to action on our tackling climate change. Nothing less than our planet and the fate of cities are at stake.

Edwin Lee
Mayor

San Francisco residents can help support President Obama’s plan and take climate action into their own hands by
  • Making sure 50 percent of your trips are by public transit, walking, biking, or carpooling. 
  • Recycling and composting to help the city reach zero waste. 
  • Reducing energy use by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, and by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency at home and at work.