Cities and counties are significant consumers of energy, water and raw materials. Local governments can thus help achieve California’s aggressive environmental sustainability initiatives by moderating their own resource and operations choices. Importantly, through a variety of policies, plans and actions, local governments can also substantially influence the energy behavior and associated carbon impacts of their residents, businesses, local developers and other key stakeholders.
In its Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan adopted in September 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission identified three primary strategies for local governments:
- Lead by Example by greening municipal facilities and operations
- Encourage Stakeholders and Constituents to match or exceed municipal commitments
- Leverage Local Authorities to implement “reach” policies, plans, codes and standards
These strategies yield a robust portfolio of potential sustainability actions by local governments.
While there are many opportunities for local governments to lead their communities to long term sustainability, there are also many challenges. Most of these are related to the typical types of resource constraints, both staffing and funds, that all governmental entities face every budget year. However, today these barriers are exacerbated by unprecedented financial challenges at both the state and federal levels.
In conjunction with the Department of Conservation’s “California Emerald Cities” pilot program, the California Sustainability Alliance is developing tools, information and techniques to help local governments quickly sift through the massive amounts of over-information that impair their ability to take decisive actions. In order for local governments to act, they need to know:
- What are the most important actions that they can and should take now to reduce their jurisdictions’ energy and carbon impacts?
- Which best practices are most applicable to their unique local priorities?
- What kinds of resources do they need to implement these actions?
- What types of technical and financial support are available to help them achieve their energy and GHG reduction goals?
The Alliance’s activities are structured to help California’s local governments assume their rightful role as leaders of their communities’ paths to a long term clean energy and low carbon future.