A good climate action plan is not just a laundry list of regulations; it should help cities and towns advance the goals for development, health, equity, resiliency, and job creation while preparing for the impacts of climate change.
Many NH seacoast municipalities are currently developing Climate Action Plans. In Portsmouth, a group of residents that call themselves Portsmouth Climate Solutions has been encouraging the city to get started on this process. The group convened last winter to discuss issues raised in the book and films by Project Drawdown and developing a Climate Action Plan for Portsmouth stood out as a significant opportunity for immediate local action.
Cities are uniquely positioned to have great impact in the climate crisis response through planning, infrastructure, transportation, and city operations; and they can move quickly to effect change. In the absence of strong federal policy to reduce climate change impacts, a few tiny towns and many small and large cities are answering the challenge to take local action to improve our climate outlook. Climate Action Plans describe the activities a municipality can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Portsmouth has already taken a first step by conducting a greenhouse gas inventory (which you can view here). This is critical, as a plan without a means to track emissions, monitor results, and establish accountability may not translate into meeting reduction targets. A climate action plan prioritizes strategies, outlines specific measures, and establishes accountability.
In contrast to municipalities, state and regional plans can be less impactful. For example, the State of NH has a climate action plan, but it hasn’t been updated since it was published in 2009 and isn’t guiding current legislative or executive priorities. More recently, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP) updated our Regional Climate Change Action Plan in 2017, but very likely not many have heard of it (despite its historic significance of being the world’s first multi-governmental effort implemented at a federated level in 2001). Municipal policies and regulations, on the other hand, are closely observed by their residents and more easily modified. At the local level, a climate action plan can recommend policies that can be calibrated to align with local conditions, improving the odds for successful adoption of new strategies to improve climate impacts in new development and city operations.
A good climate action plan is not just a laundry list of regulations; it should help cities and towns advance the goals for development, health, equity, resiliency, and job creation while preparing for the impacts of climate change. Change is coming, we should have a plan for how we will deal with it and how we can blunt its severity by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. It is clear we need to make a sharp change in global emissions in this decade to avoid the most serious impacts and to reduce the burden on future generations. We look forward to seeing how Portsmouth will lead on this issue.
- The NH Network for information and actions in NH
- “Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning” by UN Habitat
- Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance / Architecture 2030 / C40 Cities: “City Policy Framework for Dramatically Reducing Embodied Carbon” and great statistics on cities and carbon and the building sector specifically.
- The Fourth National Climate Assessment, summary of findings
- Latest (2022) UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report