Climate Action Planning

Building an Effective Climate Action Plan

Cities have been trying to reduce their emissions enough to reach important reduction goals, but in many cases, haven’t been succeeding. It’s challenging to put together enough effective actions to build a strong Climate Action Plan. This page describes the qualities of an effective plan. Recommended steps for creating a plan are listed in Climate Action Planning Steps for Cities.
As city planning professionals across the globe have developed more expertise in climate action planning, it has become clear that successful plans are:

  • Comprehensive: A list of just a few emissions-reductions programs will not, in most cases, make enough difference, although such programs are important and can be a start. A plan needs to be broad and deep enough to reach reductions goals.
  • Equitable: A focus on equity is essential to undo the injustice and harm that has been done to frontline communities and communities of color. Along with equity, the related areas of public health and jobs are very important, because climate actions can bring crucial benefits in these areas, especially for frontline communities.
  • Focused on science-based priorities: Buildings and transportation/land use have been shown to be the major direct sources of emissions in most cities, in terms of what city governments can address. Therefore, a local Climate Action Plan must give strong emphasis to these areas.
  • Supported by community engagement: Outreach and engagement during the development of the plan brings the community’s voice into the process and helps ensure that the plan has a greater likelihood of success in adoption.
  • Built on available knowledge of what’s working in cities: It can be extremely helpful to learn from various cities, spreading and building on good ideas, to bring emissions down fast enough to meet crucial goals. Thankfully, city planning professionals have been building networks such as C40 for large cities and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) for smaller cities. Other professionals, for example in the fields of architecture, urban design, and transportation, have been developing and sharing knowledge as well. This sharing of knowledge is essential.
  • Specific and actionable: The plan can contain a vision and aspirations, but must emphasize specific tasks, described clearly enough that they can be acted upon. The plan implementation and results also need to be monitored so that the plan can be improved, and made as effective as possible in achieving the intended reductions in emissions.

The Climate Action Priorities for Cities Workbook

The People for Climate Action Coalition has worked with many sources that describe potential actions for cities to take for reducing emissions, and compiled a list for our local cities to review and consider. Check it out:

If you want to download the workbook to put it to use in your local area, please email us at

Local residents’ voices are crucial in advancing these plans.

A basic foundation for all this work in area cities and in King County is the energy of residents, speaking to their City Council, County Council, or both. Residents can tell their councils that they care about the climate, they expect their local governments to learn from the best resources available for climate action planning, and they want their city to create and implement a comprehensive climate action plan.

Want more background and ideas? Check out our Resources page.