Climate change is a global problem, but the problem begins locally. Cities consume 75% of the world's energy and emit 80% of the world's greenhouse gases. Changing the way we build and operate our cities can have major effects on greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, communities across the U.S. are responding to the climate change problem by making plans that assess their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and specify actions they will take to reduce these emissions.
This is the first book designed to help planners, municipal staff and officials, citizens and others working at local levels to develop Climate Action Plans. CAPs are strategic plans that establish policies and programs for mitigating a community's greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. They typically focus on transportation, energy use, and solid waste, and often differentiate between community-wide actions and municipal agency actions. CAPs are usually based on GHG emissions inventories, which indentify the sources of emissions from the community and quantify the amounts. Additionally, many CAPs include a section addressing adaptation-how the community will respond to the impacts of climate change on the community, such as increased flooding, extended drought, or sea level rise.
With examples drawn from actual plans, Local Climate Action Planning guides preparers of CAPs through the entire plan development process, identifying the key considerations and choices that must be made in order to assure that a plan is both workable and effective.
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About the Author
Michael R. Boswell is Professor of City and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of hazard mitigation, environmental policy, and climate action planning. He is also a former Planning Commissioner for the City of San Luis Obispo, California.
Adrienne I. Greve is Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She led studio courses that assisted California communities in preparing climate action plans and continues to develop curricula for integrating climate action planning throughout the planning program.
Tammy L. Seale is Sustainability and Climate Change Services Manager at PMC, a municipal services consulting firm based in California. She has provided planning services to public agencies in California and Florida for fifteen years and has led preparation of numerous climate action plans, greenhouse gas emissions inventories, and sustainability programs.
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Local Climate Action Planning
By Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, Tammy L. Seale
ISLAND PRESSCopyright © 2012 Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale (text), Dina Perkins (images)
All rights reserved.
Climate Action Planning
Global warming is real and demands our immediate response. It is in our national interest to act now and mayors understand that a successful plan in this country for reducing our energy consumption begins in cities and local communities. We are leading by example in the fight against global warming and representing America to the world.
Gregg Nickels, U.S. Conference of Mayors president and Seattle mayor
The U.S. Global Change Research Program's June 2009 report to the president and Congress clearly establishes the nature of the global warming problem:
Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with important contributions from the clearing of forests, agricultural practices, and other activities.
Global warming is already impacting human health and safety, the economy, and ecosystems. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, global warming impacts will increase in severity. The global challenge is twofold: reduce the human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases, and respond to the negative impacts already being felt and the likelihood that they will worsen in the future.
The largest source of heat-trapping gases, or greenhouse gases, is fossil-fuel-burning power plants, and the second-largest source is fossil-fuel-burning vehicles (fig. 1.1). For the former, changes such as better technology, development of large-scale renewable energy, and retirement of old, inefficient power plants will have an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the latter, evolving vehicle and fuel technology and standards will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These types of technological evolution and large-scale energy programs are driven by private-sector investment and federal and state government legislation and programs. Although these efforts are important and necessary, the problem of global warming cannot be solved without the participation of communities, local governments, and individuals as well.
Local action is critical for needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions to occur. Local governments control the vast majority of building construction, transportation improvements, and land use decisions in the United States. Civic and business organizations, environmental groups, and citizens can join forces with local government and commit to local action that includes energy efficient operation of local government, energy efficient buildings, alternatives to driving such as city buses and bicycles, and city planning that improves the quality of life and allows people to depend less on their car.
Fortunately, communities all over the United States are responding to the challenge of climate change by assessing their greenhouse gas emissions and specifying actions to reduce these emissions. As of early 2011, over a thousand mayors had signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (box 1.1), vowing to reduce carbon emissions in their cities below 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol (fig. 1.2). In October 2009, Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Arizona, became the 1,000th signatory to the Agreement. At the signing ceremony, he expressed the needed collective effort: "I welcome the opportunity to join with 1,000 of my peers in this truly bipartisan effort to improve not only the environment, but our communities and our nation. We may not all agree on specific action points, but we are united in a common goal of responsible environmental stewardship." When Mayor Tim Davlin of Springfield, Illinois, signed the Agreement he reminded everyone what it would take and why it was needed: "We must rally the entire community to creatively find additional ways to reduce emissions and make our planet a better place to live for our children and their children."
These kinds of commitments have driven the completion of over 120 city and county climate action plans (CAPs) as of early 2011 (fig. 1.3). Most of these are only a few years old so their impact is yet to be felt, but some communities are well into implementation of their greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies and are beginning to report success. ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), a "membership association of local governments committed to advancing climate protection and sustainable development," in their 2009 annual report notes the following successes (among others):
Broward County, Florida, reduced emissions by 62,491 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually between 1997 and 2007.
Portland, Oregon, reduced local carbon emissions in 2008 to 1% below 1990 levels, despite rapid population growth.
New York City, New York, in September 2008 reported a 2.5% reduction in citywide greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2007, largely due to the impact of new natural gas power plants that came online in 2006.
San Francisco, California, reduced community-wide emissions by 5% between 1990 and 2005—8% from peak emissions in 2000—totaling 670,000 tons of greenhouse gases.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, reduced community-wide emissions by 7% (440,700 metric tons) between 2000 and 2006, over 50% of which was due to reductions in electricity usage.
Seattle, Washington, reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below the 1990 baseline by 2005.
Boulder, Colorado, has been reducing community emissions since 2006.
These successes show that actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can work and that aggressive reduction targets can be met.
Also at the local level, many U.S. colleges and universities are leading the way in climate action planning. As of early 2011, about 380 U.S. colleges and universities have adopted a CAP, with several hundred more committed to action. There is a great opportunity for communities to partner with their local colleges and universities to share knowledge and resources and engage in collaborative planning.
The tremendous variety of efforts taking place in cities, counties, and colleges and universities to address the problem of climate change is impressive and suggestive of the need to establish "best practices" in this new field of planning for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and for climate change adaptation. Although the specific names for these plans vary, they are generally referred to as climate action plans (CAPs). This book provides basic guidance on preparing a local CAP and making key decisions about methods and assumptions that all plan writers should address. The information in the book should be useful to cities, counties, and colleges and universities since the basic climate action planning process is the same.
What Are Climate Action Plans?
CAPs are strategic plans that establish policies and programs for reducing (or mitigating) a community's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. CAPs may be visionary, setting broad outlines for future policy development and coordination, or they may be focused on implementation with detailed policy and program information. Although there is no official format or content guide for CAPs, the most commonly used has been ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection Milestone Guide. A review of existing guidance and adopted CAPs shows that they are usually based on GHG emissions inventories and forecasts, which identify the sources of emissions from the community and quantify the amounts. They also identify a GHG emissions reduction goal or target. To reduce emissions and meet the reduction target, CAPs typically focus on land use, transportation, energy use, and waste—since these are the sectors that produce the greatest amount of GHG emissions—and may differentiate between community-wide actions and local government agency actions. This book refers to these actions as emissions reductions or reduction strategies, rather than using the terms mitigation or mitigation strategies. Additionally, many CAPs now include a section addressing how the community will respond to the impacts of climate change on the community such as sea level rise, increased flooding, and change in ecological processes; this is usually referred to as climate adaptation (box 1.2).
CAPs can be stand-alone documents or they may be integrated into comprehensive land use plans, "green" plans, sustainability plans, or other community-level planning documents (box 1.3). For example, New York City prepared a sustainability plan titled PlaNYC that addresses housing, open space, brownfields, and water and air quality, as well as climate change. Some communities may have climate action policies and programs in various documents and resolutions that are collectively the equivalent of a unified CAP. Increasingly though, CAPs are prepared as stand-alone documents. This book focuses on the preparation of stand-alone CAPs and suggests how they can be integrated with other community plans and policies.
CAPs vary in role and content based on community context and local vision. Role refers to the functions that the plan performs in the community. Content refers to the topics or issues that the plan covers. Communities need to consider the following points as they make decisions about the roles and contents of their own CAPs. In turn, these decisions should direct the climate action planning process.
A CAP performs these functions in a local community:
1. Establishes actions necessary to reduce local GHG emissions and meet desired targets
2. Establishes actions for adapting to climate change–induced impacts and hazards
3. Establishes accountability for action
4. Brings stakeholders together
5. Informs the public
6. Integrates actions from various community plans
7. Integrates actions across different scales (local, regional, state, federal, international)
8. Saves money through energy efficiency and builds the local economy
9. Improves community health and livability
10. Responds to local context and conditions
The following are standard contents of a CAP (box 1.4):
1. Background on climate change and potential impacts
2. Inventory of local GHG emissions
3. Forecasts of future GHG emissions
4. GHG emissions reduction targets
5. Emissions reduction strategies (quantified and based on the best available science and appropriate for the jurisdiction) that cover energy, transportation, solid waste, and land use
6. Adaptation strategies based on the best available science and appropriate for the jurisdiction
7. Implementation program, including assignment of responsibility, timelines, costs, and financing mechanisms
8. Monitoring and evaluation programs
CAPs have two technical or quantitative components that can make them more challenging to prepare than traditional community-level plans: the GHG emissions inventory and the GHG emissions reduction strategies. The GHG emissions inventory is an identification and accounting of GHGs emitted to the atmosphere from sources within the community over a period of time, usually a calendar year. These emissions are not measured directly; instead they are estimated based on quantifying community activities and behaviors such as the number of miles driven in vehicles and the amount of electricity consumed by residences and businesses. For example, the City of Hamden, Connecticut, conducted a GHG emissions inventory and determined that the community emitted 613,233 metric tons of GHGs in 2001. The emission sources were nearly evenly split among the residential sector (37%), the transportation sector (34%), and the industrial and commercial sector (24%), with a small contribution by the waste sector (5%). The GHG emissions inventory also usually contains projections of future emissions that provide a basis for reduction targets and a benchmark for progress toward achieving them.
There are various approaches for inventorying GHG emissions, but the lack of a clear, consistent protocol has frustrated many local efforts. Fortunately, a recent partnership among ICLEI, the California Air Resources Board, the California Climate Action Registry, and The Climate Registry produced a standard approach useable nationwide for inventorying GHG emissions that result just from local government operations (the Local Government Operations Protocol [LGOP]) such as fueling vehicle fleets and powering government facilities. Additional work by ICLEI is under way to develop a similar protocol for emissions from the whole community and is expected to be available in early 2012.
The complement to the GHG emissions inventory is development of GHG emissions reduction strategies. Reduction strategies are tied quantitatively to the emissions detailed in the inventory to demonstrate a plan's ability to reach emissions reduction targets. Predicting emissions reductions from reduction strategies requires that numerous assumptions be made about future local behavior and feasibility of implementation for each strategy. For example, the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, identified a reduction strategy in collaborating with "regional bicycling advocates in order to increase bicycle use as a mode of transportation." They then estimated that it would reduce annual GHG emissions by 6,300 tons per year by gathering data on existing and forecasted transportation mode share, average bicycle trip length, and vehicle emissions factors. A key assumption was that this collaboration could achieve a fourfold increase in the percentage of workers over the age of 16 that bike to work. Through future monitoring and evaluation the City could determine the accuracy of their predictions and make needed adjustments.
Most CAPs include emissions reduction strategies in the areas of land use, transportation, renewable energy and clean fuels, energy conservation and efficiency, industrial and/or agricultural operations, solid waste management, water and wastewater treatment and conveyance, green infrastructure, and public education and outreach. Although these categories are fairly consistent across plans, the reduction strategies within the categories vary. Climate adaptation strategies also share common categories, such as buildings and infrastructure, human health and safety, economy, and ecosystems with variation among local measures. For a CAP to be implementable, it must reflect the local context, including emissions sources and relative amounts, geographic location, existing policy, employment base, transportation modes, development patterns, community history, and local values and traditions. These factors inform decision making as to which emissions reduction or adaptation strategies are most likely to be locally effective.
CAPs often include a discussion of co-benefits of the various identified emissions reduction and climate adaptation strategies. Cobenefits accrue in addition to the primary climate benefits (fig. 1.4). For example, residential energy efficiency programs often decrease homeowners' power bills, bicycling incentives promote health and recreation, and tree planting improves air quality and community aesthetics. Communities may emphasize co-benefits more than climate benefits to garner broader support for climate action planning. For example, in Salina, Kansas, the Climate and Energy Project has focused on energy efficiency (i.e., saving money) and green job creation; these are touted as the primary benefits, and GHG emissions reductions are seen as co-benefits.
Because climate action planning has novel technical requirements, CAP preparation is becoming a professional activity. In addition to nonprofit organizations such as ICLEI that specialize in providing planning guidance and technical assistance, a number of consulting firms specialize in GHG emissions inventories and climate action planning services. Some communities are creating high-level staff positions to oversee preparation and implementation of climate action and sustainability plans. Professional associations are offering training and support for members specializing in climate change issues. Colleges and universities are offering classes and certificate programs, and full-degree programs are emerging. This book contributes to this emerging field by guiding climate action planners, and others interested in the field, through the plan development process by identifying the key considerations and choices that must be made in order to assure a locally relevant, implementable, and effective plan.
Excerpted from Local Climate Action Planning by Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, Tammy L. Seale. Copyright © 2012 Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale (text), Dina Perkins (images). Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Climate Action Planning 1
Chapter 2 Getting Started 33
Chapter 3 Public Participation 65
Chapter 4 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory 87
Chapter 5 Emissions Reduction Strategies 115
Chapter 6 Climate Change Adaptation Strategies 153
Chapter 7 Implementation 183
Chapter 8 Communities Leading the Way 199
Chapter 9 Time to Take Action 227
Appendix A Climate Science 233
Appendix B The Public Participation Program 249