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Santa Monica Wins Environmental Sustainability Award

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By Daniel Larios
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December 8, 2014 – The City of Santa Monica has received the 2014 Cool Planet Award from a collaborative effort between Southern California Edison and The Climate Registry, acknowledging the bayside city’s efforts in energy policies and sustainability.

The award – which identifies cities, universities and businesses for “demonstrating leadership in energy and carbon management” – recognized the City’s policies that address the reduction of greenhouse gases and provide energy efficient municipal services.

"Cool Planet Award winners are taking meaningful action every day as they strive to make their organizations more energy efficient, cost effective and competitive," said David Rosenheim, Executive Director of The Climate Registry, a climate protection non-profit that promotes collaboration among North American governments.  

Santa Monica has a long history of environmental sustainability, becoming one of the first cities in the U.S. to have a comprehensive sustainability plan adopted in 1994, which has guided environmental policy for the last 20 years, according to the City’s Sustainability Manager, Dean Kubani.

“There’s a plethora of things that Santa Monica has been doing that was recognized by this award,” Kubani told the Lookout Friday.  “Sustainability has been important to the City for many years.”

“I think it stems from the people of Santa Monica and the need to safeguard our environment and local economy,” Kubani added.  “The people of Santa Monica are well educated and that is one of the reasons why they have supported it from the start.”

Two important factors recognized by the award are Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan and the 15x15 Climate Action Plan.

In 1994, the City Council adopted its first Sustainable City Program to ensure that Santa Monica can continue to meet its current environmental, economic and social needs.

In 2003, the City adopted a comprehensive Sustainable City Plan and, in 2005, issued its first “Report Card” as an assessment of data from eight different categories that make a city sustainable: Resource Conservation, Environmental and Public Health, Transportation, Economic Development, Open Space and Land Use, Housing, Community Education and Civic Participation, Human Dignity and Arts and Culture.

The Plan sets concrete and measurable goals that Santa Monica must meet to become a sustainable community, with staff grading the City every two years against those goals.

In 2012 – the last Report Card given – Santa Monica received two A’s in its eight categories. They were in Community Education and Civic Participation and Open Space and Land Use. 

The Report Card’s poorest showings were in Housing and Environmental and Public Health, which received a C and a C-plus respectively.  This is largely due to the constantly-rising housing costs and mixed results from the City's efforts to keep Santa Monica Bay clean, according to the report.

The 15x15 Climate Action Plan was established in Santa Monica in 2013 with the short-term goal of reducing community greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. 

In order to do this, the City enacted 15 strategic measures to meet that goal, including increasing solar energy capacity every year, reducing annual energy consumption, creating more open space, and reducing water consumption and municipal greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, Santa Monica has achieved a total reduction of 14 percent below 1990 levels, one of the best reductions in the country, according to City officials.

In addition to the short-term goal of 15 percent, the City adopted long-term benchmarks, including a total reduction of 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below those levels by 2050.

“Generally, there's scientific agreement that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050,” said Shannon Parry, Sustainable City Coordinator for Santa Monica. 

Santa Monica has also adopted energy policies and applied new technologies that reduce energy demand and climate impacts from its municipal facilities.  

For example, in 1999, Santa Monica was the first city in the nation to power its facilities entirely with electricity from environmentally friendly renewable sources, with all new municipal buildings designed to achieve a 10 percent higher performance than current statewide standards, according to City officials.
"Santa Monica has achieved over 2 million kilowatts per hour of electricity savings annually since 2010 – which is enough to power about nine blocks of homes in Ocean Park,” said Kubani.

“That efficiency, coupled with our work to generate renewable solar energy, is going to keep giving us returns well into the future."

Although this is the first time that the City has received the Cool Planet Award, Santa Monica has been recognized by a number of organizations for its environmental efforts, including the Institute for Local Government Beacon Award 2013, Siemens Sustainability Award 2012, California Sustainability Alliance Showcase Award Grand Prize 2009 and the U.S. EPA Green Power Leadership Award.

“We have a long list of environmental awards, literally hundreds of them,” Kubani said.

Santa Monica received the Cool Planet Award at an award ceremony in October, attended by Mayor Pam O'Conner.

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