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San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously approves first-ever plan for carbon neutral city operations

SLO Chamber of Commerce

In a July 6 meeting, the San Luis Obispo City Council approved the first-ever plan for carbon neutral city operations.

San Luis Obispo already had a community wide net carbon neutrality goal for 2035. But this new approved plan, known as Lead by Example, outlines steps the city can take to reach carbon neutrality among its municipal operations by 2030.

The plan includes ways to reduce greenhouse gas emission production and remove existing emissions from the atmosphere.

Some of the long term action plans include eliminating fossil fuel use to power city facilities, eliminating fossil fuel use in city vehicles, establishing zero waste methods in city facilities, minimizing emissions generated from wastewater treatment and planting trees.

Shannon Pressler is the city’s climate fellow. She has helped develop climate initiatives for San Luis Obispo over the last two years and presented the Lead by Example plan at the council meeting.

She said without moving forward with this plan, conducting city operations as usual could have negative long-term effects on the environment.

“In that scenario, it’s expected that emissions would increase by about 5 percent in 2030,” Pressler said.

But she said the city could see a huge reduction in environmental impact after implementing the plan and offsetting emissions.

“With offsetting taken into account, the city can technically achieve net zero emissions by 2030,” Pressler said.

She said this estimation is based on modeling and it is unclear how things may change once practices are implemented. According to the report given by staff, the city could reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by as early as 2027.

A number of steps have already been taken in alignment with the city’s carbon neutrality goal. These include open space conservation, electric vehicle investment, retrofitted streetlights and contracts for solar generating systems at city facilities.

City staff plan to update the Lead by Example plan every four years concurrent with every other city financial plan. Pressler said this leaves room for flexibility to address necessary changes as they come up.

To view the entire Lead by Example plan, click here.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.