Progressive Local Government for the 21st Century


The Problems & Progressive Local Solutions

Fighting climate change and responding to its impacts will be the defining issue for cities in the coming years. While climate change requires coordinated national and international response cities will be ground zero for this fight. U.S.’ cities house 82% of the country’s population so greening our largest metro areas will have an outsized impact in the fight against climate change.

Fighting for a green future has the added benefit for cities of creating economic growth and good green jobs. ProGov21 has a wealth of resources to assist local governments looking to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This roadmap outlines the key components of a progressive response to climate change which includes evaluating current energy use and emissions; reduce emissions in local utilities; promoting the greening of commercial, industrial, and residential sectors; greening your local government; and investing in green public transit.

Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms

Local governments have numerous policy options and opportunities for generating environment sustainability. Important targets for green transformation including utilities, waste management, zoning, water management, and transportation.

ProGov21 has excellent guides for local governments pursuing these aims and research highlighting the economic benefits of going green. Excellent overviews include the National League of Cities and CNT guides to the connection between sustainability and economic growth; the Institute for Sustainable Communities local resources guide for climate adaption and resilience; the AFL-CIO’s Apollo Alliance guide to creating good union jobs through green energy investments; Policy Matters Ohio menu of policy options for local communities and a guide to creating good green jobs from energy investments; and EPI’s guide to renewable energy investments and its impact on re-industrialization.

We also have resources on climate adaptions such as the Georgetown Climate Center guide to flooding and sea level rising adaption and D.C.’s master plan for climate adaption.

Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them

The first step for a progressive local government looking to address climate change is to examine their current energy use and emissions. Requiring building benchmarking is an important step in generating this information. IMT’s model benchmarking law and SWEEP guide to municipal energy benchmarking are useful resources. ProGov21 also contains example ordinances such as those from San Francisco and Seattle.

Reducing emissions in local utilities and containing overall local energy consumption is also crucial. ProGov21 has excellent resources on creating a local clean energy program including the SiX Action policy guide, the Meister guide to transforming municipal energy supply, and the U.S. EPA guide to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in your water system. We also have examples to help promote renewable energy in your local grid such as the Massachusetts model municipal zoning ordinance to allow wind energy, the US Department of Energy guide for local communities to incorporating solar power, and examples like the Gainesville, FL residential solar power ordinance. In many communities reducing emissions must include the banning of natural gas fracking. We have useful examples from Wilkinsburg, PA, Baldwin, PA, and Wales, NY. We also have excellent research on the subject from Policy Matters Ohio such as this impact assessment of fracking in Carroll County, Ohio. We also have resources on financing your green energy investments from Green City Bonds and C40 on green finance. The UC Berkeley Labor Center has great resource to ensure these investments generate green jobs for disadvantaged workers.

Local governments can also require and incentivize the greening of the private commercial, industrial, and residential sectors. Utilizing green zoning is key towards this end. ProGov21 has numerous examples for cities looking to adopt green building codes such as the NEEP guide to establishing a municipal energy rating and disclosure policy. The Boston Building Energy and Water Disclosure Ordinance is an excellent example as is the green building codes from San Francisco, Dallas, and San Antonio. See also this model green construction ordinance. To promote the greening of residential buildings we have resources including COWS’ and Green for All’s guide to promoting residential retrofitting. Portland’s Clean Energy Works Portland program also helps provide energy efficiency upgrades for its residents.

Progressive local governments must also lead by example. The public sector typically represents a large portion of the local economy and greening government can have a large impact on your community. ProGov21 has examples like COWS’ guide to greening government through retrofitting, the Portland, Oregon sustainable procurement policy, and the California Sustainability Alliance green procurement guide. Greening waste management is also essential. The Ecocycle Solutions roadmap to becoming a zero waste community and Boston’s residential composting ordinance are examples of our waste management solutions. We also have numerous resources on water management such as the CNT guide to storm water management and the Fort Worth, TX storm water ordinance.

Taking it to the Next Level

Progressive local governments looking to mitigate climate change must make investments in public transportation and cut America’s addiction to cars. ProGov21 has a wealth of resources for communities looking to invest in public transit in our Transportation and Mobility policy roadmap. One interesting finance program to consider is Austin’s Parking Benefit District which uses revenue from city parking to fund new public transit construction. Houston has a similar program. LAANE helped advocate through research for a clean port trucks program in Los Angeles which lowered emissions while improving trucking jobs. Policy Matters Ohio guide encouraging residents and cities to buy electric vehicles is a useful policy program for tacking auto emissions.

Local governments must also consider utilizing their investment funds and pensions to fight climate change. Governments can ensure they are divested from the fossil fuels. The Mayor’s Innovation Project has a model city divestment ordinance and guide to city fossil fuel divestment. We also have examples such as from the San Francisco pension fund and Madison, WI.

Helpers & Allies