How cities and counties are showing the way on climate action


As leaders emerge from the business and governmental sectors to address climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeing trends reflected in this year’s Climate Leadership Awardee accomplishments, including collaboration among cities and counties taking a stance on climate action.

Earlier this year, the EPA's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership as well as the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Climate Registry recognized some awardees for their exemplary corporate, organizational and individual leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change.

Some awardees reflect the trend of collaboration among cities and counties:.

The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership 

The city of Minneapolis and its gas and electric utilities — CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy —  joined to form the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) to advance the city's goals in energy efficiency, adopting renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The partnership set citywide GHG emissions reduction goals of 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 from a base year of 2006. The partnership engaged business and residential community leaders and together they adopted a two-year work plan of energy efficiency and renewable energy goals as outlined in the city's Climate Action Plan. It includes:

    • Helping 75 percent of Minneapolis homeowners, renters and rental properties participate in efficiency retrofit programs by 2025, with the program's distribution reflecting the current percentage of low and moderate income home ownership and rental housing in the city.
    • Implementing a Building Energy Disclosure policy for medium and large commercial buildings. The city’s goal is 20 percent energy efficiency in commercial buildings and 15 percent energy efficiency in residential buildings by 2025.
    • Promoting adoption of renewable energy for Minneapolis customers, such as on-site or directly purchased solar, wind, community solar gardens and green tariffs. They aim to have 10 percent of customers adopt renewable energy by 2025.
    • Investigating the feasibility of large-scale renewable energy purchasing for city government and residents.
    • Transitioning to LED streetlights.

    In the first nine months, the CEP leveraged the partners' resources by promoting the utilities' energy efficiency programs in the city's utility bills. CEP representatives organized and attended events to promote energy efficiency programs and energy savings behaviors, and allocated resources to cut the cost of home energy audits and provide no-interest financing for installing energy efficient upgrades.

    The King County-Cities Climate Collaboration

    The King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) in Washington state recognizes that neighboring local governments can achieve greater action on climate solutions working together than alone. Since its inception in 2011, K4C has grown to 14 member jurisdictions, representing 75 percent of the county’s 2 million residents.

    The group supports adoption of countywide — including all 39 of its cities — goals to reduce GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2030 and 80 by percent by 2050 from 2007 baseline levels. Part of this will entail setting a goal of reducing energy use in all existing buildings by 25 percent by 2030.

    K4C’s climate commitments address emissions, energy supply, green building, land use, forests and more, and the shared vision of the partners and their policy framework formally have been adopted by the chief elected officials of 11 of the current 14 members. The partnership also has resulted in municipal policy and code changes, joint grant funding and increased influence among other stakeholders.

    Western Riverside and San Bernardino government councils and Los Angeles County

    Through leadership by the Western Riverside Council of Governments, the San Bernardino Associated Governments and the County of Los Angeles, government agencies in Southern California created the means to allow homeowners to finance home improvements through the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program. Their work increased the mass adoption of home energy and water efficiency in communities across California.

    HERO is a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program enacted by California legislation that partners with local governments to make energy-efficiency, water-saving and renewable energy products more accessible for homeowners. The three key partners formed a Joint Powers Authority in 2014 so that other local governments could join the program for the benefit of their communities.

    The partners provide key input that continues to guide and shape the partnership, including developing consumer protections, crafting eligible product guidelines and adjusting program policies in response to market feedback.  

    The joint effort by West Riverside, San Bernadino and Los Angeles also established PACE as a key local government tool for achieving local climate action goals. The projects financed through the HERO Program created more than 10,000 jobs in California as of February and are expected to reduce emissions by 2.2 million tons and conserve 3 billion gallons of water over time.

    EPA isn’t the only one noticing municipal action. CDP recently announced a large increase in the number of cities sharing climate data since the Paris Agreement was adopted. Record numbers of cities are measuring and disclosing environmental data annually in order to manage emissions, build resilience and protect themselves from the growing impacts of climate change.

    The EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership is a federal voluntary resource that supports organizations in measuring and managing GHG emissions. Awards in six categories highlight leadership in managing and reducing GHG emissions in internal operations and throughout the supply chain, as well as in integrating climate resilience into operations.

    EPA's 2017 Climate Leadership Awards application period is open until September 26, 2016. Awardees will be honored during the 6th annual Climate Leadership Conference, March 1-3, 2017 in Chicago.