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A team of the Climate Interest Group with members from across the U.S. have extensively reviewed existing municipal and other climate action plans and distilled the really valuable PROCESSES that can facilitate action. TEN key processes are shown in the graphic and are described in more detail below.

1.               Set annual GHG reduction goals. Commit to a specific GHG emissions reduction goals for every year.  Goals should decline on an annual percentage basis, which front loads the reductions in GHG emissions and avoids passing difficult steps to future generations.

 2.               Take inventory annually and use SMART metrics.  Measure or estimate GHG emissions every year and conduct full inventory every other year.  Develop internal staff capacity to measure in order to reduce cost and gain staff engagement.  Clarify the baseline for measurement.  Use SMART metrics that are:

  •  Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

 3.               Establish consequences for failure to meet goals.  For any year when the city did not meet its emissions goal, implement corrective action proportional to the magnitude of the gap between the goal and actual emissions.  Include meeting emissions goals in evaluation criteria for all senior city personnel, not only those with direct responsibility for climate action measures.

4.               Clarify actions to be taken.  Distinguish actions for GHG emission reduction from other valid environmental objectives that have a relatively less significant impact on GHG reductions like creating shade structures for adaptation to heat and composting.  Avoid plans to plan and aspirational verbs (explore, consider, discuss, reach out, partner, etc.) when describing actions to reduce GHG.  Distinguish values (e.g. social inclusion, diversity, community outreach, democracy) from actions that will reduce GHG emissions.

5.               Assign authority and budget.  A sustainability director, responsible for GHG emissions programs, should report to the City Manager and provide monthly public updates to the City Council.   He/she should have budgetary authority appropriate for achievement of the GHG emission actions.  GHG reduction actions must be prioritized in city budgeting or at least evaluated publicly so that trade-offs can be considered. When budgeted funding is inadequate to implement climate actions, seek additional funding from state and federal programs, local taxes or bonds, foundations and private sector sources. 

6.               Link GHG reduction to workforce development Train youth, unemployed and underemployed area residents in skills needed for solar installation, retrofit of buildings and other GHG reducing actions.  Work with labor unions and employers where applicable to achieve employment and training objectives in skills and jobs related to GHG emission reduction.

7.               Link GHG reduction to affordable housing and utility bills. Build GHG reduction goals and actions into plans and development of affordable housing.  Emphasize the economic value of low carbon energy and lowered utility bills to developers and residents. 

8.               Integrate climate action with building codes. Adopt REACH Codes when needed to exceed state building codes.  Build GHG emission reduction into building codes and review climate action annually (not every 5 years). 

9.               Embrace public transparency.  Publish GHG emission reduction goals, metrics and inventory results where the public can easily view them.  Utilities should publish monthly disclosure of % of total city energy use that is renewable and specific plans for achieving GHG emission goals, as inserts to bills and post in public locations.  Contracts with consultants and energy suppliers should be published where citizens can see them easily.  Consultants’ draft recommendations and reports should be public. The City Council, City Manager and the Mayor should place reports on GHG reduction actions and status on the agenda of regular public meetings.

10.             Use Climate Action Plans (CAPs) for their intended purpose of GHG emissions reduction Don’t use vague CAPs to streamline environmental compliance for development projects.