Understanding Our Emissions

We've reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 19% from our 2005 baseline. This is mostly a result of using cleaner electricity. Deeper reductions will take a range of solutions to address them comprehensively.

Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Why is the Climate Changing?

The fossil fuels we use for generating electricity, heating our homes and workplaces, growing the food we eat, and fueling our cars, as well as the breakdown of trash in landfills, release GHGs into the atmosphere. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases are important for regulating the Earth’s temperature and keeping it warm enough for life on this planet.

Since the Industrial Revolution, however, human activities such as burning fossil fuels, converting our forests to farms and human development, and producing waste has caused much larger quantities of GHGs (particularly carbon dioxide and methane) to be released into the atmosphere than is sustainable. The amount of carbon dioxide has increased 100 times faster in the last 60 years than previous natural increases! This large increase in GHGs is causing global temperatures to rise and is disrupting our climate patterns, causing more extreme weather events.

Source: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide

Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Contributing Sources

GHGs come from a variety of sources across the different parts, or sectors, of our community. In developing the solutions we need to reduce GHGs, we will look at what's happening within these sectors. In this chart, we see that electricity-related GHGs have nearly vanished in the residential sector, natural gas dominates across the built environment, and petroleum fuels across transportation and off-road uses make up over 62% of our emissions! In order to make the deep cuts in emissions, we will need to transition away from fossil fuels in buildings and in transportation, toward clean energy.

Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Past Performance

Since our first GHG inventory in 2005, we experienced significant growth citywide as our population and employment grew through 2015.  Despite this growth, GHG emissions have dropped 19% below 2005 levels! 

With the CAP Update, we're charting a path to even deeper reductions in GHGs.



Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Forecast GHGs

If no action were taken to address GHGs, continued growth in population and buildings would result in our emissions growing steadily in the future. This scenario is referred to as "business-as-usual" or BAU. Through the actions of the State and Federal governments, we can expect lower emissions than BAU but still far short of the reductions needed to eliminate our contributions to climate change.

The future emissions levels here are the result of cleaner grid electricity, more efficient new buildings, and cleaner vehicles as a result of State and Federal Policy.

Much of the emissions that remain under this scenario are a result of continued use of fossil fuels in buildings and transportation and it will be up to us to chart the path to eliminating them from the community.

Municipal Operations

GHGs Decreasing

In addition to leading the community to a climate-friendly future, the Milpitas city government must also do its part to reduce GHGs.

Since 2015, we have reduced GHGs considerably, mostly by greening our electricity supply. As a result, GHGs from streetlights have been eliminated and city building-related GHGs have been cut in half.

While these trends are good, we need to extend what we've accomplished with streetlighting to other parts of the City's operations.

Municipal Operations

Energy Use Increasing

Despite a net reduction in GHGs between 2015 and 2019, we've actually increased energy use across our buildings substantially, using 19% more electricity, 3% more natural gas, and 6% more gasoline and diesel fuel in our fleet. Some of this energy increase is due to changes in facilities, but these results illustrate that there is much more we could do in our own operations to reduce energy use and GHGs.

The CAP Update will help us prioritize those opportunities and take action to bring these numbers down.

Municipal Operations

Municipal Forecast

Likewise with the community forecast, we can expect a certain amount of improvement from State and Federal actions that will bring the GHGs from city operations below business-as-usual. 

Here again cleaner grid electricity, more efficient buildings, and vehicles will improve our performance slightly.  With completely carbon free electricity by 2045, the GHGs from water supply and streetlighting are completely eliminated. 

Moving forward we'll need to do more and accelerate these changes with local action.