In this section, we examine best practice examples of the strategies and governance structures that eight local governments are using to develop and implement climate action plans. Our literature review identified eleven categories that are recommended by grey and academic literature as key strategies and governance approaches for local climate change mitigation action. We categorize the content of the deep decarbonization plans according to these eleven categories. These strategies and governance approaches can be further developed and implemented in a wider variety of communities.
Below are key examples of the actions and strategies that are outlined in the climate action plan documents and/or discussed during the interviews with representatives from the case study cities.
Bridgewater: Community-wide engagement for plan development was completed over an 18-month period including input from an advisory committee composed of community stakeholders. Community-wide educational activities are led by the Bridgewater Energy Partnership. The town works with higher levels of government to advocate for more climate action initiatives and challenges local businesses to adopt actions outlined in their plan, entitled Community Energy Investment Plan (CEIP). Bridgewater is also a member of ICLEI Canada’s Partners for Climate Protection program, a network of Canadian municipalities taking action against climate change.
Park City: The city conducted a community-wide, three-phase visioning process during stakeholder meetings. The city organizes monthly talks and events to educate residents about climate action and the climate action plan. Through their leading role in developing the Community Renewable Energy Act, the City uses advocacy actions to engage the State government of Utah in community climate action. Park City has partnered with and is a member of several transnational city networks: Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM), ICLEI USA, and The Climate Reality Project.
Guelph: The Community Energy Initiative update was written by Our Energy Guelph (OEG), a community group composed of many stakeholders. OEG consulted with the community for the plan creation. OEG is largely responsible for plan implementation; the community group engages stakeholders at all levels for implementation of actions. OEG advocated to the local government, the provincial government, as well as community stakeholders to adopt more climate actions. Guelph is a member of ICLEI Canada’s PCP program.
Lahti: For stakeholder input and plan development, the City of Lahti uses a mobile application called the Porukka app, which is used to gather ideas and feedback from residents in a manner that is cost, energy, and time efficient. Lahti is a member of the EU Covenant of Mayors initiative.
Vancouver: Community-wide engagement was done for plan development; over 46,000 people were included in the process. The city has many community-wide engagement programs for resident education, including programs for students. The city uses social media, newsletters, and courses offered at community centers. The city has also created an Award of Excellence for individuals and organizations that make achievements towards reaching Vancouver’s targets. The city is also part of several transnational city networks, including C40 and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA).
Oslo: Oslo’s Climate and Energy Strategy was developed in dialogue with the involvement of the business community and state-owned enterprises in five sector groups (transport, energy, buildings, resource utilization, and cross-sector energy issues). The city leads information and educational campaigns about climate change, particularly for children in schools, with their online education portal called “Climate School”. The city works with Climate House, which is a physical place where residents can go to learn about climate change and what they can do. Oslo participates in multiple transnational city networks, including C40 and CNCA.
Toronto: Over 2000 members of the public were engaged early in the process to contribute to the development of the targets and the plan with online surveys, panel discussions, community discussions and events, as well as youth engagement events. Live Green Toronto Outreach Program participated in over 400 events between 2017 and 2018 and uses social media for public awareness. Toronto participates in transnational city networks including C40 and CNCA.
New York: For the plan development, 17 focus group meetings were held with more than 100 technical and policy experts. GreeNYC is the resident engagement program for the net-zero target. They are dedicated to educating, engaging, and mobilizing New Yorkers to help New York City to meet its ambitious sustainability goals. The program includes a multitude of engagement activities and resources for New Yorkers to get involved with climate action in the city and uses mass social media to engage with residents. New York City participates in multiple transnational networks such as C40 and CNCA.
4.1.2. Green Economy
Bridgewater: The CEIP is an economic development strategy with sustainability goals embedded into it. The town is working to develop more sustainable purchasing practices.
Park City: The city is changing its procurement policy in order to reach climate action targets.
Guelph: OEG works with local businesses through the Guelph Energy Managers programs, helping and encouraging innovation and “greening” of business practices.
Lahti: The city is changing the Public Procurement Policy to reflect the targets of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP). There is heavy focus on the circular economy in the City Master Plan and the city is developing actions such as developing a circular economy map for the city, borrowing programs for residents, and improving construction standards and waste recovery programs.
Vancouver: Vancouver has a specific green economy target in the Greenest City Action Plan. The goal is to double the number of green jobs and businesses by 2020. The city will also launch a clean tech accelerator, partner with educational institutions, and support trades training to develop a workforce that will expand the green economy.
Oslo: The Climate and Energy Fund helps to encourage innovation in the green tech sector by providing funding for projects. The city will intensify efforts to promote fossil-fuel-free and zero-emission construction practices among developers in the public and private sectors. The city has also increased its procurement guidelines to be more environmentally friendly.
Toronto: The city has developed the Green Market Acceleration Program, which provides local firms and foreign investors with an opportunity to collaborate with the city to develop green technologies and bring them to market. The City Council committed to engaging job-seekers, workers, unions, academic institutions, relevant sectors, and social service agencies in the creation of a low-carbon jobs strategy that supports a decent work agenda, career pathways for equity-seeking groups, and the expansion of green industry sectors across Toronto.
New York: The city works closely with the private sector and unions to increase the development of a green workforce. They provide programs for industry on energy efficiency technologies and strategies.
4.1.3. Policy Tools
Bridgewater: The town is looking to review its Municipal Planning Strategy and include policies identified in the CEIP.
Park City: There is a net-zero performance standard for city-owned buildings and there is also a city-wide ban on plastic bags.
Guelph: OEG makes policy change recommendations to City Council to achieve the Community Energy Initiative (CEI) targets. Guelph City Council has committed to the climate targets and will be shaping local policies in accordance with the targets set out by the CEI.
Lahti: Policies are being implemented at the local government level, such as energy efficiency regulations for municipal buildings.
Vancouver: Vancouver has introduced an energy bylaw for existing buildings (the first in Canada) and a stretch code for all new buildings. By 2030, all new buildings will be zero-emission and embodied emissions will be reduced by 40%.
Oslo: The Carbon Budget is a key regulatory and governance tool that ensures that all Oslo’s agencies assume responsibility for climate initiative, though the majority of regulations are set at the national level.
Toronto: The city has updated the Toronto Green Standard for new buildings to correspond with the Toronto Zero Emissions Buildings Framework. It is a set of environmental performance measures for sustainable development that includes a step code that will reach Zero Emissions Buildings (ZEB) by 2030.
The Climate Mobilization Act, enacted in 2019, uses legislation for climate action. It includes a slate of laws designed to dramatically cut GHG emissions in the city. Laws include green roofs, building energy efficiency grade, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, buildings mandate, 80 x50 target, long-term energy plan, and a climate action executive order [59
4.1.4. Financial Tools
Bridgewater: The town has implemented a PACE Program and is looking to develop a local clean energy investment system.
Park City: The city has started a PACE program for commercial buildings and has also waived fees for permits associated with energy efficient construction. The city provides free public transit as well as free charging for electric vehicles.
Guelph: The local government is investing in climate-friendly infrastructure such as bike lanes, electric buses, and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. OEG is looking into developing a community investment fund or a local climate bank that will provide capital for the plan. An investment fund that can take deposits from individual investors that are Retirement Saving Plan (RSP) eligible, so residents can invest part of their retirement savings in local climate initiatives.
Lahti: The local government along with its partners (City Group) have made large infrastructure investments, including a EUR 180 million bioenergy plant. The local government is utilizing financial tools offered by the national government rather than creating their own. In partnership with the local technical university, the city has developed a personal cap-and-trade system for transportation. The CitiCAP Program allows residents to record their daily transportation habits, and they are rewarded for using low-carbon transportation such as walking/biking and using public transportation.
Vancouver: The city is investing heavily in climate-friendly infrastructure. For residents, Greenest City Grants are offered for projects that take action towards meeting the GCAP goals. The city also offers energy retrofit incentives for windows and building envelopes.
Oslo: Oslo is making large infrastructure investments such as active transit routes, carbon capture and storage systems, and electric vehicles for fleet and transit. The city provides subsidies through the Climate and Energy Fund that will facilitate the implementation of measures by private individuals and businesses to help to reduce GHG emissions and use energy more efficiently. Oslo has an extensive road user payment system where most of the revenue is reinvested in public transit systems. The city is divesting from fossil fuels in the pension fund.
Toronto: The city is investing heavily in climate-friendly infrastructure such as public and active transit. The city provides many grants and financial incentives for residents and organizations to take on green projects. All buildings in Toronto are eligible for low interest loans at the city’s borrowing rate. It offers financing up to 100% of the cost of the project with repayment terms up to 20 years.
New York: The city is investing over USD 20 billion in infrastructure such as better public transit, bike lanes, safe pedestrian infrastructure, and better buildings. The city will be introducing congestion pricing to reduce traffic and generate funds for the improvement of public transit systems.
summarizes the commonly used strategies being employed and which case cities are using them.
Bridgewater: Climate action implementation is distributed across relevant city departments.
Park City: A two-person sustainability team plays a leading role in climate action planning. They collaborate with other departments to implement climate actions.
Guelph: A collaborative governance structure where the city and OEG work together to develop and implement the plan. Guelph City Council has adopted the plan and will shape policy and strategies to reflect it.
Lahti: Long-term environmental objectives are governed through the Lahti Environmental Program. It aligns the major transition targets of the city: a carbon-free, zero-waste, and sustainable city by 2050. Plan creation and coordination is done through the Sustainable Development Department. This department is also responsible for recruiting other departments for actions directly related to the SECAP.
Vancouver: The Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP) embeds responsibility for meeting the defined targets within city departments where the specific expertise lies. Each of the 10 goals for the GCAP have both internal and external committees for the implementation of actions related to that goal. For internal collaboration, there is the Climate Emergency Directors Forum, which is the place where the various directors are brought together to develop the Climate Emergency Response Plan and the Greenest City Plan. They also oversee the implementation.
Oslo: The climate budget and the energy plan are the result of joint work by the Finance Department and the Environment and Transport Departments, working with the other municipal departments and 50 local agencies. The climate budget is a governance tool that clearly outlines the measures that the city will implement, who is responsible for them, the timeline, and the expected emissions reductions; it provides a sense of cross-municipal ownership of climate action.
Toronto: The Environment and Energy Division is responsible for the coordination and the preparation of the TransformTO plan. All relevant city departments (Transportation, Waste Management, Planning, Fleet Services) have their own strategies that align with the targets and each of these departments plays a leading role on their own actions
New York: The NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs (CPP) leads New York City’s fight against climate change and manages OneNYC 2050; the CPP includes the Office of Sustainability, the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, and the Office of Environmental Coordination. The CPP works in partnership with other city departments/agencies to implement actions in the 80 × 50 pathway and the OneNYC plan.
4.2.2. Oversight and Reporting
Bridgewater: The plan is overseen by the Town Council, with GHG inventories taken every 2 years and updates to the CEIP done every five years.
Park City: A municipal carbon footprint is calculated annually.
Guelph: The board of directors of OEG oversees the progress of the CEI and they report to Guelph City Council quarterly. GHG inventories are taken annually and the overall plan is updated every five years.
Lahti: The City Board (Council) oversees progress on actions. GHG inventories taken every four years and biannual Environmental Balance Sheet is done including a progress report and strategy follow-up.
Vancouver: The City Manager and City Council are the main overseers and the Sustainably Department is in charge of monitoring and reporting. GHG inventories are calculated annually in the buildings, transportation, and waste sectors and the GCAP is updated every five years.
Oslo: The City Council has overall responsibility for monitoring and implementing the climate measures. The city has developed a “Climate Barometer”, a monitoring and oversight tool that helps to keep all actors and actions on track. It has 14 indicators that are updated quarterly on the progress of the Climate Budget, identifying the need for increased action in specific sectors. New Climate Budgets and GHG inventories are published annually.
Toronto: The City Council oversees progress on TransformTO. Every four years, a report including a GHG inventory, co-benefits of actions, public engagement levels, amount of financial and other resources mobilized, progress on the actions, and any revisions and additions to the actions is submitted to City Council.
New York: The City Council is the legislative body of local government that oversees the implementation of local laws. There are annual GHG inventories and progress reports submitted to the Mayor’s office and the OneNYC plan is updated every four years.
Bridgewater: Communication is facilitated by the town’s Chief Administrative Officer. There are regular meetings held between city departments, though communication can at times be informal.
Park City: The sustainability team facilitates communication with other city departments, through meetings, emails, and reports to the Council.
Guelph: OEG board meets every six weeks; subcommittees for each of the actions report to the board.
Lahti: The Sustainable Development Department facilitates communication with other city departments. Communication occurs through an internal city website, email, regular meetings, and other informal communication.
Vancouver: The City of Vancouver has a cross-department team to share information on progress and challenges regarding plan implementation that meets quarterly. The city has an internal website dedicated to green operations; it also provides a online course for city staff, and there is also an internal newsletter that discusses sustainability actions and topics. Dissemination of information to the public is through GCAP and Climate Emergency Plan progress reports, website, education, and engagement programs.
Oslo: The annual climate budget and the climate barometer are documents that communicate the progress of every indicator. The Oslo Agency for Climate coordinates and facilitates climate work in the city; the agency works to coordinate the city departments/agencies and facilitates communication internally.
Toronto: Communication to the public via progress reports and documents as well as community-wide engagement and education campaigns and social media. The Energy Division coordinates with other departments and facilitates communication on TransformTO progress.
New York: OneNYC website and open data portal are available to the public for transparency and to keep NYC residents involved in the actions.
4.2.4. Multi-Level Integration
Bridgewater: There is provincial legislation that makes Municipal Climate Change Action Plans mandatory in Nova Scotia, though Bridgewater’s plan exceeds provincial standards.
Park City: Park City has taken a bottom-up approach to the integration of climate policies, through their work on the Community Renewable Energy Act. This bill will support other municipalities in Utah who want to integrate more renewable energy.
Guelph: In Ontario, municipalities are creatures of the province; they must follow the province’s decision-making and policies. The Ontario provincial government has recently repealed policies such as the provincial cap and trade system and the green energy act, cancelling a large number of renewable energy projects and energy conservation demand programs. This has created a policy gap between the targets of municipalities such as Guelph and the provincial agenda.
Lahti: The Finnish national government has set ambitious climate action targets and many national policies support local climate action as well.
Vancouver: City strategies are aligned with others at the regional (Metro Vancouver) and provincial levels. The provincial carbon tax is a good example of multi-level integration. The city complies with the provincial (regulations) and, in turn, receives a refund on its carbon tax, which provides funding for the climate action plan.
Oslo: The national government and the Oslo municipal government work together on integrating policies; many of them are introduced at the national level.
Toronto: City staff are currently assessing the implications of climate policy and regulation changes introduced by the Province of Ontario, including the cancelled cap and trade program.
New York: The State and the City work together closely and the city plays a large role in advocacy to the state for climate action; the federal government plays a small role in imposing climate regulations since it announced that it would back out of the Paris Agreement.
4.2.5. Cross-Sector Collaboration
Bridgewater: Collaboration is practiced through the Energize Bridgewater entity, which includes over 50 partners from various sectors. Bridgewater is in the process of creating an Energize Bridgewater Advisory Committee, which will be a forum for the town to engage with and support the energy poverty reduction program and the CEIP.
Park City: The local government partners with local businesses and NGOs to implement specific actions.
Guelph: There is extensive collaboration between many diverse community groups, businesses, and city government for the CEI and the 2050 Pathway. OEG has created task forces for each of the actions composed of diverse stakeholders with expertise in the field.
Lahti: The city collaborates with City Group, which is a group of companies (including district heating, waste management, and utilities) that are partially or wholly owned by the city for the implementation of climate actions.
Vancouver: Internal and external advisor groups for each of the ten goals in the plan coordinate the actions and provide expertise.
Oslo: The Oslo Agency for Climate coordinates and facilitates collaboration between all the local government agencies and external actors for the Climate Budget and implementation actions.
Toronto: Partnerships have been developed with external actors working in separate sectors—each sector partnership has a different agreement model to work on various projects. Partnerships are separated by sectors and/or specific actions.
New York: There is city-wide collaboration for implementation of actions. Partnerships are developed surrounding a specific sector.
Bridgewater: The local government will raise over CAD 400 million to implement the plan. The town will use tax revenue and funding from provincial and federal governments.
Park City: Through the public private partnership with Rocky Mountain Power, the city receives funding for renewable energy projects. The city allocates funding from tax revenue and has created open space bonds to protect 8000 acres of land.
Guelph: The local government provides funding for climate initiatives and operation funding for OEG. OEG is looking into a community-funding model “local climate bank” for the majority of capital. Higher levels of government also provide funding through various programs.
Lahti: Funding for projects comes from various sources such as the EU, the National Government, partner organizations (City Group), and the City of Lahti.
Vancouver: The majority of funding comes from Vancouver’s tax revenue. Municipalities in British Columbia pay the province’s carbon tax but are refunded the money if they fulfil certain environmental requirements. This refund provides an extra 1 to 1.5 million dollars annually for climate action in the city.
Oslo: Funding for the actions outlined in the climate budgets comes from the national government, City Council, and through public/private partnerships.
Toronto: The City Council in February 2018 fully funded the implementation of the TransformTO 2017–2020 short-term strategies. A CAD 300 million green bond program was established in 2018 to fund climate actions in the city. The city also receives external funding from the provincial and federal governments.
New York: Capital for each of the actions comes from one or several of the following entities: city agencies, state agencies, federal government, private sector. The city has committed USD 4 billion in city pension fund investments for projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other climate change solutions. Several green bonds have been issued in different sectors (including a sustainable neighbourhood bond and several climate certified bonds from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for low-carbon transportation). The City of New York has filed lawsuits against polluters—namely Volkswagen and the five largest oil companies who are responsible for climate change. The goal was to sue polluters into playing for the climate actions in the city. The VW case was successful, though the case against the five large oil companies was rejected. The city will continue to look for settlement funding in this manner.
4.2.7. Modes of Governance
Bridgewater, Park City, Guelph, Lahti, and Oslo: The local government uses self-governing, governing through enabling, and governing through provisioning to implement climate actions.
Vancouver, Toronto, and New York: The local government uses self-governing, governing through enabling, governing through provisioning, and governing through authority to implement climate actions.
summarizes the categories for governance arrangements and which cases are developing governance mechanisms for each of the categories.