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Climate Action Plans

The page covers the basic elements of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for local governments in Washington State, including examples of CAPs, greenhouse gas inventories and reduction targets, and related resources. 

It is part of MRSC’s series on Climate Change.


The impacts of climate change are already being felt by many communities across Washington State. In response, some local government are choosing to develop plans that both acknowledge the threat of climate change and propose strategies for reducing the possible impacts on their communities.

A strategic plan for climate protection is an essential tool for guiding a community to take effective action in climate change mitigation. It helps to prioritize actions that should be taken to successfully reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and serves as the roadmap for local governments as they implement municipal and community-wide programs, projects, and policies.

Climate Action Plans

A locally adopted climate action plan (CAP) is a comprehensive policy tool outlining specific actions that a community will undertake to reduce GHG emissions and/or adaptation strategies the community will implement to counter the negative effects of climate change. Sometimes CAPs cover a single municipality, while others are regional in scope.

CAPs typically establish GHG-reduction targets and use a community GHG emissions inventory as a baseline for setting those targets. CAPs also identify emissions reduction policies and strategies by sector (e.g., transportation/land use, buildings, waste reduction, agriculture, and municipal operations). Step-by-step technical resources, such as the King County Climate Action Toolkit, can assist jurisdictions that are just undertaking the CAP planning process or want to update and strengthen existing plans. For a list of individual GHG reduction strategies broken down by section and associated resources and examples, visit our page Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies for Local Governments. 

Examples of CAPs

Several local governments in Washington State have adopted CAPs that include significant GHG-reduction strategies. MRSC’s Local Government Climate Change Documents page includes a comprehensive list of climate-related plans by jurisdiction, including CAPs, sustainability plans, and comprehensive plans that include climate-related policies. 

Recommend Resources

Developing and Updating a Greenhouse Gas Inventory

A GHG inventory is an evaluation tool for local governments to use in developing targeted climate action strategies specific to local needs. It is not a precondition to taking steps to reduce emissions; however, it is a frequently used, valuable tool in climate action planning.

An initial GHG inventory is typically a baseline calculation of all emissions from various sources throughout a local jurisdiction, and it is often limited to a public agency’s operational emissions. A GHG Inventory can inform decision-makers on where and how to focus their emissions reduction efforts. The categories vary by jurisdiction and approach, but can generally be divided into the following sectors:

  • Energy,
  • Transportation,
  • Land use,
  • Buildings,
  • Solid waste/wastewater, and
  • Municipal operations

Examples of GHG Inventories

Recommended Resources

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

Washington has enacted several state laws and commitments focused on GHG reduction. These regulations are meant to limit emissions in some of the state’s highest emitting sectors, as well as set future targets for greenhouse gas permit trading and reduction. The most recent is the Climate Commitment Act. The GHG reduction goals driving this legislation require the state to decrease emissions to 95% below 1990 emissions levels by 2050, with multiple milestones along the way. The 2021 State Energy Strategy provides a blueprint for how Washington State can nearly eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2050. Local governments engaged in climate action planning also typically set their own reduction targets and identify strategies to meet those targets. 

Examples of Local Government GHG Reduction Targets

Last Modified: April 24, 2023