Implementation Strategies for Climate Action and Sustainability Plans, Part 1
With Earth Day just around the corner on April 22, it’s a good time for public agencies to assess what actions they are taking to address climate change and to advance sustainability goals. Several Washington State local governments have adopted ambitious climate action and sustainability plans in the face of the climate crisis. These public agencies are now working on implementing their plans.
This blog will explore a handful of implementation strategies developed to ensure that public agencies are making progress toward reaching their climate action goals. Future blogs and training will further explore the topic of implementation, including capacity building, staffing, technical resources for local governments, and funding opportunities.
Tracking Progress on Climate Action
Climate action plans typically establish benchmarks and set targets for emissions reductions across sectors. For the plans to be effective, jurisdictions must then track progress toward achieving these targets. Annual progress reports are a great way to keep residents and policymakers apprised. For example, this 2022 Progress Report and Detailed Action Review of the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan uses easy-to-read infographics, identifying where Thurston County and the participating cities are meeting targets and where they are falling short. The report also highlights key regional achievements, such as adoption of a C-PACER program to allow for greater financing options for commercial energy efficiency upgrades. Likewise, the City of Olympia published this Climate Infographic showing dozens of actions it has taken to advance its climate-related goals.
The City of Shoreline issued this 2021 Sustainability Report, which looks at key indicators by focus areas (e.g., “Climate, Water, & Energy” and “Resilient Communities”) and also highlights recent policy and other developments that affect the city’s climate goals (e.g., municipal pool closure and associated impact on municipal emissions).
Leveraging the Support of Community Organizations
Community organizations can be instrumental in making sure that climate action plans are not simply adopted and ignored. The nonprofit Thurston Climate Action Team (T-CAT) was a critical partner in developing the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan and now works to ensure the plan’s implementation through its Carbon Free Thurston Campaign.
The group Resilient Methow convened a meeting to assess progress made on the Methow Valley Climate Action Plan one year after it was adopted (the plan itself was spearheaded by the Methow Valley Citizens Council). Achievements include establishing a water bank to help local agriculture, tracking domestic water use, building homes with lower carbon footprints, tree planting, and energy efficiency upgrades in buildings throughout the valley.
Engaging Community Members to Meet Climate Goals
Local governments cannot meet their climate action goals without the support and participation of individuals who live and work in their communities. Public agencies are employing creative ways to engage their community members, including challenging them to reduce their carbon footprint, providing educational opportunities and resources, and offering incentives for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy technologies.
In 2020, the City of Shoreline invited its residents to become Climate Champions by taking part in a seven-week climate change education and action series. Each session provided information on various aspects of climate change, with information about rebates, programs, and climate action opportunities specifically for Shoreline residents. Recordings of the sessions are available at the Climate Champions webpage.
The City of Bellingham has an All In for Climate Action campaign, including a call for residents to take the “I’m In!” pledge, where they can commit to reducing energy use, shifting their transportation modes, and participating in civic efforts, among other things. King County has a webpage dedicated to What You Can Do to take action on climate change, including links to calculate your carbon footprint and ways to green up your travel.
Clark County Green Neighbors (which is led by the county public health department but partners with City of Vancouver, WSU Extension, and Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries, among others) has a Conscious Consumption Series with presentations and events at local library branches to help residents learn about food waste reduction, worm bin composting, and more. See this recent MRSC blog, Local Governments Pursue Zero-Waste Measures.
The King County Library System hosted a webinar earlier this month on The All-Electric Home: What's Involved and New Funding Options in partnership with several groups, including Energy Smart Eastside, which is a coalition of five cities (Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond) operating a local heat pump installation and rebate program. To learn how local governments are incentivizing the use of energy-efficient electric heat pumps, see MRSC’s blog, Beat the Heat with Heat Pumps.
Utilizing MRSC’s Climate-Related Resources
In July 2021, MRSC launched its Local Climate Response Project to help equip local governments with tools necessary to plan for and mitigate climate-related impacts. In addition to maintaining multiple climate change webpages, MRSC has partnered with state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, and universities to offer training and blogs on a range of climate-related issues. In April and June, MRSC will offer two free webinars: Building Equity into Climate Resilience Strategies (April 20) and Climate Action Funding Opportunities and Technical Resources for Local Governments (exact date and registration TBD, but it will be listed as part of our Upcoming Trainings).
Learning From Your Peers
MRSC has convened the Local Climate Action Peer Network in partnership with the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC). The peer network meets quarterly (via Zoom) and provides an opportunity for local government staff working on climate-related issues to share best practices and learn about new approaches. Each meeting includes presentations from climate organizations, state agencies, and/or local jurisdictions on a topic of interest, as well as time for attendees to provide brief project updates and ask questions. The next meeting is on April 27 from 9-10 AM and will include presentations by staff from AWC and WSAC covering key climate legislation from the 2023 session. Interested parties can register for this meeting.
MRSC also maintains a listserv so that members of the network can ask questions, post job announcements, and share resources. If you would like to join the listserv, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
While the climate crisis can feel overwhelming in its scale and scope, resources for local governments to make progress toward a more sustainable future are abundant. MRSC will continue to gather these resources and offer opportunities to learn about how local governments can successfully implement their climate and sustainability-related policies and goals.
MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.